Ilford resident Hella Pearlman, who came to Britain on the Kindertransport, was a special guest at the matinee performance of play ‘Kindertransport’ on Thursday, March 22 at the Hornchurch’s Queen’s Theatre and was given the opportunity to meet the cast after the show.
The Kindertransport was a British rescue mission that took place at the beginning of WWII which took Jewish children from various European countries at threat from the Nazi Party and were placed in British foster homes.
Hella was one of 10,000 Jewish children ferried from Austria and Germany to safety in Britain before the outbreak of the Second World War.
She was almost 7 years old when her father arranged for her and her sister to travel to Britain.
Hella said: “I arrived at London Liverpool Street station, with a ticket around my neck. We were only allowed one suitcase. I can still remember the hat I wore. I couldn’t speak a word of English. A man from Thrapston (Northamptonshire) who was quite well off picked me up; he had two businesses, a grocery shop and a pet shop.”
After watching the performance, Hella joined the cast on stage to share her story with them – including the loss of her parents, her memories of being on the train, about her life now in Britain, how she met her husband, and how she went back to her birth place to see where she used to live.
The play, written by Diane Samuels, concerns the difficult choice faced by parents Helga and Werner Schlesinger of keeping their beloved daughter, Eva, in Germany with them, or letting her become one of the Kindertransport children, who are sent to the UK, alone. A story very similar to that of Hella’s own.
When Eva arrives in London, speaking no English, and feeling very much abandoned, she is taken under the wing of Lil Miller.
The play jumps back and forth between three time periods: Pre-war – in which Helga tries to prepare Eva to leave; War – in which Eva is living in England with Lil, adjusting to a new country, and post-war, where she has a daughter, Faith.
Kindertransport is co-produced by Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch and Les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg in association with Selladoor Productions. It finished at the Queen’s on Saturday, March 24 but embarks on a UK tour to the New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich (April 17 – 21), Richmond Theatre (April 24 – 28) and Manchester Opera House (May 1 – 5).