The Journey exhibition follows the story of Leo Stein, a 10 year old German Jewish boy, living with his parents and younger sister Hannah. The Steins live in Berlin, Germany in 1938, during the year which we follow his life many things changed for Leo and his family, as it did for other Jewish people.

By following Leo’s life from his family home, through to his Journey to England on the Kindertransport, visitors to the museum learn about the impact of Nazi propaganda, anti-Jewish measures, and anti-Semitism.

Jewish life in 1938; Leo’s home

We enter Leo’s home in 1938, by this time Jewish people had already been persecuted by the Nazi regime for five years. Through gradual introduction of legislation and anti-Semitic propaganda, the Nazis were orchestrating a plan to isolate Jewish people from the rest of society and limit their public and private lives. The success of these measures begins to become apparent when Leo’s non-Jewish friend, Fritz, is chastised by a neighbour for playing with a Jewish child. The gradual exclusion of Jewish people from society laid the foundations for ever more extreme measures.

Leo's classroom

The classroom allows visitors to explore Leo’s school life and consider what his school day might have been like as a Jewish child in a Nazi classroom. The Nazis considered indoctrination of the German youth particularly important. They took complete control of the school curriculum and established Nazi youth groups. Teachers would have to teach the Nazi curriculum which served the purpose of indoctrinating students with Nazi ideology. Visitors can sit in Leo’s classroom as he describes a school day under this regime.

Kristallnacht; the November Pogrom

As the street on which Leo’s family business is situated, the third room of the exhibition informs visitors of the November Pogrom, also known as Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass). This event proved to be a turning point in the history of Nazi persecution of Jewish people. Violence committed during the November Pogrom set the precedence for future atrocities, many synagogues were destroyed across Germany, Austria and Sudetenland. Thousands of Jewish businesses were looted and the windows smashed, predominantly by members of the SA, the Hitler Youth, and those following Nazi ideas. Thousands of Jewish people were arrested, and some were murdered in the attack. The little response generated by Kristallnacht and the lack of defence for Jewish people demonstrated both domestically and internationally encouraged the Nazi regime to introduce more extreme measures. These measures ultimately became the Holocaust.

Decisions and Hiding

We enter Leo’s father’s tailor shop immediately after Kristallnacht. His family is now facing immensely hard decisions as they consider what to do next. Although some Jewish people held onto to hope that the violence would pass, a surge of anti-Semitic legislation followed and the extreme display of brutality against Jewish people convinced many that they had no future under the Nazi regime.

In this space visitors can consider the difficult decisions facing the Stein family, particularly the possibilities of going into hiding, or fleeing. Leo’s parents decide Leo should go to England on the Kindertransport, whilst they remain in Germany and go into hiding with Hannah, who is too young for the Kindertransport. The hidden space within the shop offers visitors the chance to explore a hiding, and consider what life might have been like for Leo’s parents, and other Jewish people under these circumstances.

The Kindertransport; other Journeys

The Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) was the name given to the rescue of around ten thousand children, who came to Great Britain as refugees from Nazi persecution between 1938 and 1940. Sitting in the carriage as Leo describes his journey to England gives visitors the opportunity to consider how that journey may have affected the lives of children like Leo, and their families.

Following the November Pogrom; Kristallnacht, British public opinion, and aid agencies pressured the British government to accept Jewish refugees. As a result the government agreed to allow children under 17 years of age to enter, their parents or guardians were not permitted. The acceptance was conditional on the children’s care being paid for by private citizens or aid organisations and on the understanding they would return to their parents or guardians once it was safe. The children travelled mostly by train and ferry.

Refuge

The final room of the Journey exhibition takes us beyond Leo’s journey and displays artefacts from the museum’s collection. These are objects donated or loaned to the museum which relate predominantly to the Kindertransport. Objects include suitcases, essential items, and keepsakes which people had brought with them as child refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Visitors can see up close the items which children and their families considered most precious, and learn about people’s lives through the things they held dearest. You can also see some of these objects in our online collection catalogue.

The Journey exhibition is a key part of a visit to the National Holocaust Centre and Museum. By following Leo’s story and examining the impact of Nazi propaganda and indoctrination, visitors can consider what made people choose to become perpetrators and bystanders in the persecution and mass murder of millions of people. The exhibition ultimately asks visitors to consider how the Holocaust could ever have happened.