Kindertransport is a play by Diane Samuels, which examines the life, during World War II and afterwards, of a Kindertransport child. Though fictitious, it is based upon many real kindertransport stories. The play is published by Nick Hern Books.
In November 1938, after nights of violence against Jews across Germany and Austria, the British government introduced a programme called the Kindertransport (children’s transport), which gave Jewish children—and only children—safe passage to the UK. Spared the horrors of the death camps, the Jewish “Kinder” were uprooted, separated from their parents and transported to a different culture where they faced, not the unmitigated horror of the death camps, but a very human mixture of kindness, indifference, occasional exploitation, and the selflessness of ordinary people faced with needy children. Eva Schlesinger, daughter of Helga and Werner, is sent away to live with a foster carer in Manchester, England, temporarily until her parents find work and move to England too. She lives with Lil, a woman who has one other child and is not in a relationship. Her other child is not seen or mentioned in the on screen play, although they are in the book version of the play. Lil allows Eva to smoke when she meets her which shows how Lil is not a proper guardian for Eva at first. Eva and Lil fall out as Eva skips her English lessons to go and ask round rich houses if they will give her parents jobs, Lil thinks this makes her seem desperate. She is unhappy and misses her mother. Eva and Lil both eventually become at peace with one another and get on well, Eva is shown as gradually losing her Jewish roots as she begins eating ham etc. One day Helga arrives when Eva is in her late teens and Eva tells Helga that Lil has adopted her and she has been naturalised as English, and her name is now Evelyn. Helga is offended and upset that Evelyn will not travel to New York with her to stay with family. Helga tells Evelyn her father is dead. They have an argument and Helga leaves, which is then followed by an imaginary vicious, angry argument between Helga and Evelyn in which Evelyn gets out all of her hatred for Helga, and she proclaims that Helga IS the Ratcatcher, a character constantly present in the play; google Der Rattenfänger, or The pied piper of Hamelin). At the same time in the present, Evelyn's daughter Faith is uncovering her Mum's secret past and they have an argument, which eventually comes to rest. All of this takes place in the attic of Lil's house, which supposedly represents Evelyn's psyche.
Kindertransport was first performed in the UK by the Soho Theatre Company at the Cockpit Theatre in London on 13 April 1993 and the US at the Manhattan Theatre Club in New York on 26 April 1994. Subsequently the play has been produced in Sweden, Japan, Germany, Austria, Canada and South Africa. It was adapted by the author for a BBC Radio 4 production in 1995. It has also been performed in Manchester in 2014, where the play is set, at the Opera House.