Between 1939 until the outbreak of World War II, nearly 10,000 Jewish children were taken from their families in Nazi-occupied Germany and sent to live with foster families in Britain. Diane Samuels’ seminal play, Kindertransport, imagines the fate of one such child. Now widely considered a modern classic, Kindertransport has been read and studied the world over.
Nine-year-old Eva is taken from her home in Germany and sent to Manchester to live with the Miller family. At first she clashes with her foster mother, Lil, but slowly a bond of trust forms between them. After she learns that her parents have failed to escape Germany, the Millers become her family and a new identity begins to form. After the war is over, she changes her name to Evelyn and acquires British citizenship. Over thirty years later, her now grown-up daughter, Faith stumbles across some old letters in their attic and Evelyn is forced to confront her traumatic past. Samuels deftly weaves together Evelyn’s past and present as she explores the devastating impact of the Holocaust on three generations.
The play won the 1992 Verity Bargate Award and was subsequently staged by the Soho Theatre Company at the Cockpit Theatre in London in 1993. It was a huge success both in the UK and the US, where it was staged at the Manhattan Theatre Club, with the New Yorker calling it ‘a powerful contribution to Holocaust literature.’ It also won the Meyer-Whitworth Award in 1993.
Since its premiere the play has been revived several times. Watford Palace Theatre staged it in 1996, in a production that transferred to the West End. Renowned theatre company Shared Experience also revived the play to great acclaim for a regional tour in 2007. Kindertransport is a set-text for GCSE Drama (AQA) and AS/A-Level English Literature.