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Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport

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Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport

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Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders
Beyond the Kindertransport

By Frieda Korobkin
Devora Publishing (2008)
ISBN: 978-1-934440-26-1

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - March 20, 2009

The Kindertransport was an unprecedented rescue plan which sought to save as many young children from the Nazi onslaught, as possible. Beginning shortly after Kristallnacht and continuing up until the official start of World War II, Great Britain accepted nearly 10,000 children into their country from Germany and Nazi occupied areas. Most of these children were Jewish, and had they not been evacuated as refugees, it can be assumed that most of these children would not have survived the Holocaust.

When the children arrived in England, most of the Kindertransport children where placed with foster parents in private homes, although some were sent to camps, farms, and other institutions. Regrettably, the sheer number of children involved prevented most of them from being placed with Jewish families. The children in the Kindertransport ranged from infants up to age seventeen. Some traveled with siblings, other totally alone. Bereft of their families and in a foreign country with an unfamiliar language, life for these children was not always easy. However it was the best, and often only choice, that many families had to offer their children any chance for safety.

Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport is the story of one of the Kindertransport children who was sent to England, and safety. It is unique in the realm of Kindertransport memoirs because it examines how this rescue operation affected children from Orthodox homes and the added pressures they faced in their new homes. This book was written by Frieda Korobkin. In 1938, Frieda and her three older siblings were put on a train in Vienna by their parents and sent to an unknown future in a far off land. They never saw their parents again.

Frieda was from an orthodox, rabbinic Jewish family. Her father was Rabbi Nissan Stolzberg. When she arrived in England, she was separated from her siblings and sent to live with a Jewish, but non-orthodox family who regularly broke the Sabbath. This placed an additional burden upon the shoulders of the then six-year-old-girl, who not only had to deal with learning to live in a totally alien environment, but also with the guilt of breaking the religious rules that were the foundation of her life, guilt that only intensified when she was evacuated from London and sent to live with a non-Jewish family.

For Frieda, and about a thousand other Orthodox children, they eventually found salvation in the form of Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld who rescued as many orthodox Kindertransport children from non-Jewish and non-religious homes as he could find. He established a hostel in Cardiff, Wales where they could live a religious lifestyle. He also established a Jewish secondary school in Shefford, where many of the Kindertransport children, including Frieda, were sent when the hostel closed in 1943. There the children received a proper, Jewish education while also living in a nurturing, supportive, and religious environment. Frieda almost did not make to Cardiff, because her non-Jewish foster family would not give her permission to leave their home. Fortunately for Frieda, her older siblings, who were already under the care of Rabbi Schonfeld, kidnapped their most willing of victims, and brought her to the safety of the Jewish hostel.

In Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders, Frieda allows us to journey along with her from her home in Vienna, examining the family dynamics of her family, her journey to England, and what her life was initially like when she arrived in England, and how it changed, for the better, when she moved to the Cardiff hostel. Frieda also allows us a glimpse into her life, after the war, thereby allowing the reader to get a better idea of what her life was like as an Orthodox Jewish refugee, and how it affected her as she grew up and long into her adulthood, and how it even impacted her own children.

Throw Your Feet Over Your Shoulders: Beyond the Kindertransport is poignant and an unforgettable memoir. Korobkin's writing is fluid and filled with a wide array of emotions, and she skillfully recreates scenes from her childhood and the areas in which she lived. Throughout the course of this book, she offers an intimate and unabashed look not only into her own life, and that of her siblings, but by extension, into the lives of other orthodox children of the Kindertransport and into the deeds of a noble and courageous man, Rabbi Solomon Schonfeld.

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