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Letters from alumni about Kindertransport

February 8, 2002

I am writing to say how absolutely delighted I was with the December 19 cover story. Not only is the layout georgeous, but the article Kit Feldman wrote about Into the Arms of Strangers, and about Michael and me, is beautifully done. The producer of the film, Deborah Oppenheimer was so pleased at how Kit got it right - and wishes the coverage from major urban newspapers had come much closer to Kit in accuracy, detail and elegance. And you all made my parents cry with pride and sorrow and joy (even though they've seen the film many times too, and know Michael and our story). Thank you.

Alicia Dwyer ’92
Monrovia, Calif.

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January 24, 2002  

As a Kindertransport Holocaust survivor myself, I read with particular interest your story entitled "Of Friends and Strangers" in the December 19, 2001, issue.

Although Ms. Feldman wrote a good story, the"sins of omission" are very apparent to many of us. The research that was done and the documentary itself were incomplete and even partially incorrect.

For instance, I can mention briefly that Holocaust children did not only come from the countries mentioned by your researcher. I, as just one example, was born and fled to England from the Free City of Danzig (a completely separate state and country at the time), as were many others.

In order to set the record straight, let me advise your readers that while it was the British government that authorized our entry into Britain, it was very much the people of Britain who actually collected and gave the funds, homes, and other services that we needed so desperately.

The government itself and the various organizations who claim to have done so much for us in reality did far less then they could have. Some organizations even abandoned the children altogether once they arrived in England.

It primarily was the people of Great Britain who came together after hearing of our plight, and it was they who donated money, homes, and services as had never been done before. Large posters were put up all over the country asking people to donate to the "Save The Children Fund," and as a result, money came in voluntarily. Radio stations talked about our story, and again money was collected through this method. Theater, movie, and concert artists each gave at least one full day's pay for us.

It was mainly the people themselves who opened the doors of their own homes to take us in and this was done without pressure or rewards. No, it was not we the children survivors who were the heroes at that time; it was our parents who let us go without knowing whether we would ever see them again, and it was the average people of Great Britain who gave so much of themselves in order to save the lives of 10,000 young foreign children who were the real heroes.

The movie Into the Arms of Strangers, which received the Oscar, is well worth seeing, but I believe audiences should become aware of the fact that it is neither complete nor even 100 percent accurate. One and one half million children perished in the Holocaust. 10,000 youngsters were saved due to the efforts of the ordinary people of just one country. Their effort was a bright light in those dark days, and proves again what many more people and countries could have done, had they really wanted to save the lives of their fellow human beings. That, I feel, is the miracle of the story, and should have come out more strongly in the research as well as in the movie.

Furthermore, perhaps the story should have concluded by informing the public what happened to those children and what they have achieved and given back to the world. I am sad that once again we are unable to give proper credit where credit is due.

Edward J. Behrendt
Founder and President Emeritus
Kindertransport Association of North America

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December 24, 2001

I found fascinating the article by Kathryn Feldman ’72 regarding the 2001 Oscar-winning documentary Into the Arms of Strangers and how, in a story of kismet, two Princetonians' intergenerational friendship later became a working collaboration – with one of the Princetonians acting as the film's associate producer and the other as a subject (cover story, December 19).

Perhaps a bit of the same kismet was at work when the PAW published in the same issue (1) the From the Archives photograph of John P. Poe 1895 and two other Princeton classmates equally bloody and battered after a freshman/sophomore snowball fight, and (2) the Liriel Higa ’02 commentary regarding the Undergraduate Student Government's 2001 report on women's issues and her own 2 a.m. experience with loud, drunk and male Princetonian louts (On the Campus, December 19).

When this photograph and commentary are taken together, I saw an intergenerational Princeton story that connects my, Poe, and Higa's Princeton experience and one that sparks further thoughts on my continuously evolving appreciation of life and the all important position of Princeton in that experience.

At 2 a.m. about 20 years ago, on perhaps too many occasions, I was one of the said same loud, drunk, and male louts. My escapades only differ from that related by Higa in that instead of having one of my compatriots crash into the dorm door of a PAW writer he crashed through a hallway glass fire door, and the compatriot yelling "Open up the f---ing windows, b---s!" verbatim was doing so while running around the Henry/1901 courtyard naked and swinging his pants over his head. In addition to the effects of alcohol, the latter perpetrator was doing so as part of the requirements of having lost a bet. Names are withheld to protect the guilty.

Perhaps, like a computer hacker with a guilty conscience offering his services to counteract further hacking, my above exploits give me some credibility in decoding the issue of sexual harassment of women at Princeton. Perhaps I get further "street cred" from constantly brushing up with and possibly fostering low-grade misogyny during my year as social chairman of then all-male Tiger Inn, two years of rowing crew and playing rugby, and five years in the Marine Corps.

Fortunately, over a decade of marriage to a very, very perceptive and patient woman and the gift of a now three-year-old daughter (whose unique personality makes me convinced that she is 100 percent Princeton material) gives me the desire to make amends and, I believe, has done much to cure me of my prior negative tendencies. These factors and 20 years of experience including and since Princeton tell me that alcohol-related sexual harassment of women at Princeton comes from a powerful mishmash of "nature or nurture" gender differences in regard to the biology/physiology of the sexual urge and the different rates of attaining a mentally and societally competent state of maturity. In short, most "boys will be boys." That is, most of them will exhibit their inherent tendencies towards sexual frustration and social immaturity while under the influence of too much alcohol.

Furthermore, I look at the Poe photograph as a part and parcel proof of a "boys will be boys" thesis. John P. Poe 1895 is the Poe Field namesake, one of the famous six Princeton Poe brothers, three of whom were all-America athletes, and an individual who was so popular a football hero that, when he was asked to leave Princeton for the rest of the semester because of academic deficiencies, he was cheered goodbye by all of his classmates at the Princeton Junction train station. After being asked to leave Princeton permanently for further academic transgression, Poe followed a life of adventure as a cowpuncher, gold prospector, surveyor, and soldier of fortune. Later he joined the British Army and was subsequently killed in World War I. His classmates memorialized him with Poe Field. His bloody and bashed face in the photograph was undoubtedly made courtesy of the fact that in Poe's day first snowfalls were used as good an excuse as any for freshman and sophomores to fistfight. For better or worse, the photograph strikes me as showing certain inherent and possibly interrelated truths about maleness and Princeton. Poe's story gives me pause to think about how tame are our lives, cane spree (originally conceived to redirect another excuse for freshman/sophomore fist fights), and what feebly remains of the more recently conceived tradition of Nude Olympics.

At the risk of sounding patronizing or like an apologist, I urge Ms. Higa and similarly intelligent and perceptive young women at Princeton not to waste their time taking the generalized actions of Princeton's male louts personally. I also ask them to consider that what makes Princeton Princeton is called a character – warts, frogs, rogue princes, and all. Of course, I am not condoning physically threatening words or behavior wittingly directed toward specific individuals, male or female. Yet, within that constraint, I urge Princeton students and faculty to have the patience to give all students, particularly those struggling with the inherent challenging hurdle of being young and male, some space to howl at the moon while growing up. I also urge all Princetonians, particularly Ms. Higa, not to let their college experience go by without just once getting uproariously and obnoxiously drunk, albeit safely please. I would argue that it is all part of a life's education and a life lived.

Reed M. Benet ’84
Belvedere, Calif.

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