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A Child's Prized Possession

In 1939 the Nazis increased their persecution of the Jews in Germany, forcing many of them to leave the country. However, these Jews had trouble finding another nation that would accept them. The British government decided to allow Jewish children under the age of 17 to enter the country. A series of trains -- known as the Kindertransport -- transported these children from Germany to ports in The Netherlands and Belgium, from which they sailed to England. Their parents were not allowed to leave Germany. Before World War II started, about 10,000 children traveled to England and escaped the Holocaust.

Children leaving on the Kindertransport train could take only two medium-sized suitcases, but 14-year-old Gertrude Wolff boarded the train with her little sister on May 17, 1939, with one suitcase and one accordion. The accordion was a gift from her parents. Refusing to leave her prized possession behind, Gertrude used the accordion as her second suitcase.

Gertrude's parents managed to escape Germany, but her father was interned by the British. She came to the United States with her sister and mother in 1939. After WWII, she married Robert Kahn, whose violin is also on display at the museum.

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