A group of 42 cyclists completed their marathon cycle from Berlin to London to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport.
There were tears of emotion, hugs and, in some cases, pure relief as the 600-mile six-day trip, which began at Friedrichstrasse Station in Berlin where the first train departed in 1938, ended on Friday outside Liverpool Street station.
Paul Alexander, the only cyclist to have experienced the Kindertransport first hand, was just 18 months old when he boarded a train to Britain.
Speaking to The Jewish News after crossing the finish line with his son, Nadav, and grandson Daniel, he said: “It’s extremely exciting and emotional coming to the place I arrived 79 years ago. I was given a second life here after being sent away from Nazi Germany- it was literally my rebirth. My life has been truly special thanks to the World Jewish Relief, the British people and the British Government.
“There’s nothing more wonderful than charity and acceptance of refugees in distress from other countries,” the 80 year old added. “Children were saved by people who cared and wanted to help, and this must be learnt and repeated.”
Waiting for cyclist Jamie Doyan at the finish line were his mother, Sandi Firth, and grandmother Gillie Rawson, 92.
Speaking after completing his ride, Jamie said: “I feel overwhelmed and truly touched by this incredible welcome. Everyone on this ride has a story and it’s been an amazing journey. Going through Germany felt like a democratic statement saying we will never forget but we can move on.”
His mother added: “I feel very proud of Jamie and all the other riders. It’s a very emotional day for everybody: it’s been more than just a ride. We just thank God the Kinder were able to get out alive and start new lives as refugees.”
The group cycled to the Hook of Holland before taking a ferry to Harwich in Essex, arriving at London Liverpool Street Station on Friday afternoon.
Cyclist Rebecca Singer said: “I feel exhilarated. It was really tough! We suffered horrific headwinds and pouring rain: there were a couple of days I had to give myself a good talking to,” she laughed.
“However, remembering the reason we were doing it was impetus of itself and the strength of these amazing children really pushed me through.”
A moving ceremony for cyclists and their families was held outside Liverpool Street station, next to Frank Meisler’s sculpture depicting the Kindertransport.
Dan Rosenfield, Chairman of World Jewish Relief, said: “We are all genuinely humbled to celebrate the achievement of our 42 phenomenal cyclists. It’s right that we remember the circumstances that caused this journey, and the loss and sacrifice of those involved. But we should also celebrate the Kinder and their incredible contribution to the Jewish community and society more broadly.”
Attending the ceremony was also the German Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires Tania Freiin von Uslar-Gleichen who spoke of the “huge debt of gratitude” owed to those who helped the Kinder, and pledged her Government’s support towards “remaining strong against all forms of intolerance.”
Sir Erich Reich, one of the Kinder, presented medals to the 42 cyclists. He movingly praised the “extraordinary” efforts of the 42 cyclists in commemorating the Kinder and aiding present day refugees supported by World Jewish Relief.