Institute News

Inside IWitness: “From the Mother Who Will Never Forget You: Understanding the Kindertransport”

Inside IWitness is an ongoing series that will profile each activity in IWitness, along with a clip featured in the activity and a teacher who uses IWitness in his or her classroom.

Through a new partnership with Mona Golabek’s Hold On To Your Music Foundation, IWitness launched the activity From the mother who will never forget you - Understanding Kindertransport, to introduce students to the history and experience of the Kindertransport. It provides important historical context for the book The Children of Willesden Lane. Students will engage in a close reading of a variety of texts, develop an appreciation for the historical context of the story and listen to first person accounts of the experience of being a child refugee. The activity incorporates clips from the testimony of Kindertransport survivor Vera Gissing.

The Children of Willesden Lane tells the true story of author Mona Golabek’s mother, then-14 year old Lisa Jura, an aspiring pianist whose parents sent her from Vienna to London via the Kindertransport in 1938. Jura spent the war at 243 Willesden Lane, a group home for young Jewish refugees, and continued to play the piano to fulfill her mother’s last words to her, to “hold on to her music” even during the darkest of times.

Golabek, herself a concert pianist, founded the Hold On To Your Music Foundation to share the story of her mother through the book, her one-woman play/piano concert, The Pianist of Willesden Lane, and other educational resources.

In the activity, Vera Gissing describes saying goodbye to her parents and traveling from Czechoslovakia to England. Students also listen to a poem written by a Kindertransport survivor called “Cast Out.” There are also several questions specifically about The Children of Willesden Lane. Finally students choose among five clips of Vera Gissing concerning various stages of her journey, and complete a Word Cloud.