Learning the lessons of history

Learning the lessons of history


Written by: Jenny Bourne

A new booklet published by the Jewish Council for Racial Equality (JCORE) compares the experiences of the Kindertransporte with those of refugee children today.

At a time of collective amnesia, when we look set fair to repeat the dangerous politicisation of race and immigration of an election forty years ago, it is heartening to find an organisation like JCORE which sets out to ensure that lessons of history do not go unlearnt. In its recently published booklet on Unaccompanied Refugee Children it compares the experience of the Kindertransporte of the 1930s with that of unaccompanied refugee children today.

‘I wonder if you can imagine what it is like to realise at age 13 that because there has been a change in government you no longer have a place in society? You are a non-person. Overnight the girl who has shared your desk at school will no longer talk to you, the neighbours whom you have known all your life, with whom you have been away on holiday, shun you. One thing is certain – you grow up overnight.’ Leonore, speaking of Vienna in 1938.

‘When you ask about discrimination, are you talking about being a refugee or being black. Because if you are black, you get it from white people, but if you are a refugee you get it from everyone.’ Abdoul, from Somalia, talking in a Medical Foundation group in the UK today.

Quite clearly the booklet is aimed at teachers and youth leaders who are working primarily in Jewish communities. For the first half of the booklet is all on the Jewish experience and that of unaccompanied children today appears only half way through. However, there are sufficient indicators of where to go for further resources, on how to use the booklet in terms of the Citizenship curriculum, and how to encourage further discussion and activities around refugees in Britain today, which will all prove useful to any educationalist.

Related links

Jewish Council for Racial Equality

Unaccompanied Refugee Children: have the lessons been learnt? Edited by Roberta Rosefield is available direct from the Jewish Council for Racial Equality

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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