Theatre review: Kindertransport

eva

By Helen Davidson

The play follows the sad story of Eva, a young Jewish girl sent away from Hamburg to Manchester aged 9. She is one of many other Jewish children rescued from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The open scene shows a mother and daughter in Germany preparing for Eva’s train journey to England the following day. For the last time she is read her favorite story unsure if she will ever see her mother again.

Flashing forward into the future, a young woman named Faith is moving out of her mother’s home. Reluctant to leave she stumbles upon a box of her childhood toys in the attic and discovers some old letters, photographs and a storybook written in German. Faith knows nothing of her mother’s past it has always been full of gaps. She had heard that her grandmother once took in a Jewish girl during the war but it soon becomes apparent to Faith that the Jewish girl was her mother!

Arriving in England alone and afraid only speaking German the young Eva is taken in by Mrs Miller and her family. While slowly settling into her new home Eva still cannot forget about her German parents who still write to her promising that they will all be together again soon.

Every day Eva sneaks off to the train station to wait for them until it become apparent that they are never going to come.

Shocked by her discovery Faith angrily confronts her mother about her mysterious past and is angry to find out that the truth had been hidden from her for all those years. Her mother becomes defensive and reveals that she still wishes to leave her traumatic childhood behind her. She reacts by locking herself in the attic and not talking to Faith or her (adoptive) mother.

Having given up hope a long time ago about seeing her parents again the 15 year old Eva has fully adapted to English life and her new family. However, two years later after the war her past came back to haunt her. Now 17 her long lost German, Jewish mother approaches her in the street and asks her to come to America with her.

Eva who has now changed her name to Evelyn cannot understand the German language spoken by this strange mother from the past. She is not the same person she was, her identity has changed completely. She has rejected both her German and Jewish roots and no longer feels connected to her natural mother.

In anguish her German mother tells Eva how her father had been taken to the gas chambers and how she has lost everything and wants her daughter Eva back. Evelyn tells her that she has a new life now and she cannot go with her.

Heartbroken to have now lost the daughter she sent away for safety she replies: “I’m going away now, when you find my daughter Eva please send her back to me.”

From then on Evelyn never sees her real mother again but is forever haunted by guilt for the rest of her life. Years later as her own daughter Faith leaves home she struggles to keep a stable relationship with her.

The story of Eva/Evelyn represents what happened to many Jewish children evacuated from Nazi occupied Europe during the Second World War. Although they were saved from death, they had to leave behind everything they knew and start again. In the process, many of them lost parts of themselves.

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