An 81-year-old man whose mother put him as an infant on a Kindertransport train from Berlin to London to escape Nazi Germany is recreating his journey eight decades on – this time, on a bicycle.
Paul Alexander, who now lives in Israel, is taking part with his son and grandson in a six-day ride organised by World Jewish Relief to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the initiative which helped save the lives of 10,000 children from Germany and neighbouring countries.
Some 42 cyclists, the youngest aged just 14, are taking part in the ride, which left from Berlin’s Freidrichstrasse Station on Sunday morning, and will arrive at Liverpool Street Station in the City of London next Friday.
There, they will be met by others who arrived as children in the British capital by the same route, with the first train arriving on 2 December 1938.
The cyclists will cross the North Sea by ferry from Hook of Holland to Harwich, the same route taken by the Kindertransport trains organised in the wake of the November 1938 Kristallnacht by World Jewish Relief’s predecessor organisation, the Central British Fund for German Jewry which was founded in 1933.
That was the night that Mr Alexander’s father was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp. The infant’s mother gave him into the care of a nurse to take him to London in July 1939.
She managed to travel to London in August 1939 but it would be three years until the family – joined by his father, released from Buchenwald the same month, and who also travelled to the UK – were reunited.
Eventually, they settled in Leeds, with Mr Alexander qualifying as a solicitor and moving to Israel in 1971 after marrying an Israeli citizen with whom he would have three children.
Besides Mr Alexander, a number of other participants in the ride, which will average 100 miles a day, have a personal connection to the evacuation including Phil Harris, who will start his journey from the same apartment in Berlin where his grandmother lived before she left Germany on a Kindertransport train.
Also riding will be Ian Goldsmith, who only discovered that his late father and his uncle had also left on one of the trains when he contacted World Jewish Relief’s archives as he sought establish his German heritage as part of his application for a German passport last year.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.