The inclusion of mother/daughter relationships in Kindertransport is a main theme that runs throughout the entire play. Samuels uses this theme to highlight the fact that many families were separated during WW2, as children were sent from Germany to foster homes in Britain in hope of greater safety. Hitler’s war caused much destruction, loss and heartache in Germany, so many parents felt it was better for their children to be evacuated in order to increase their level of safety. Kindertransport was a beneficial scheme that ran throughout WW2 due to the fact that it saved 10,000 lives.
In this section of the play we see how Helga is a very controlling mother as she forces Eva to sew her clothes. Commands such as “lick the thread” and “sew on your buttons now” shows how much power Helga has over Eva, and how influential she is as a parent. However, Helga obviously is not being cruel here as she is simply teaching her daughter how to be more independent, which is what many parents would have done during this time to prepare their children for a more independent life far away from their normalities. The fact that Helga later says “See. You don’t need me” instantly packs the stage with irony, as it prepares us for the tragic events that are about to unfold throughout the play.
Through reading this section of the play we see how the relationship between Eva and Helga is very turbulent as they hold back their emotions and speak through short, snappy sentences such as “have them” and “I prefer mugs” conveying a lack of love and understanding between the pair.
The fact that Helga tries to teach Eva to be more independent is actually very ironic due to the fact that Lil, her foster mother is a lot more supportive and helpful to Eva than Helga. Unlike Helga, Lil actually helps Eva with the task, even though she states “you’ll have to learn sooner or later.” Of course, this is ironic as we already know that Helga taught Eva how to sew, however here Samuels shows us that Eva likes to be cared for, and this is obviously and aspect that Helga doesn’t understand about her daughter. This shows us that Lil is actually more loving and nurturing than Helga in the respect that she had the kindness to help. This creates the impression that Lil is more of an idyllic mother compared to Helga as she conveys more compassion in her ways.
At the beginning of the play we see that even though Helga is sending her daughter away she is doing it for Eva’s own safety, as she states “any good parent would do that.” This shows that she believes she is doing right by protecting her daughter, even though it must cause her much heartache to do so.
Helga contrasts greatly to Lil in this respect due to the fact that Lil doesn’t believe its right to send Eva away. When the war starts getting worse in England, Eva is yet again going to be sent away to another safe location, although she is very scared and actually jumps off the train during her departure. After this scene Lil is obviously very shook up, and regrets the decision of sending her away. “No. Eva. I’m the one who got it wrong” shows how Lil realises it’s wrong to send Eva away, unlike Helga did.
During the actual Kindertransport process in WW1 all children were told by their parents that they were doing the most loving thing by sending them away, but after the war the surviving children begged to differ. For example, in the film “Into the Arms of Strangers” that explores stories of living survivors of WW1 many people were involved in the Kindertransport process. The film explains all about how before the war started around 10,000 children left their families to find safer homes, as well as leaving all their possessions and memories behind.
Many survivors explain how if they could relive the experience they would not leave their parents, as they would have preferred to have died with their families, together as a unit rather than being sent away to live a life that wasn’t true to their original heritage or religion.
Even though Lil isn’t Eva’s natural mother in the play, we see how she is reflected as the more loving, understanding parent, as she realises staying together as a family benefits Eva more than sending her away. Personally, I believe Samuels purposely portrays Lil in this loving way to show how inconsiderate the German mothers were at the time in the respect that they didn’t properly consider their children’s thoughts or feelings. Samuels was a Jewish mother of two and was inspired to write the play after watching a documentry on the Kindertransport process. She imagined how she would feel if she sent her children away, so so she probably wanted to convey how bad she would feel as a parent if she sent her children to a different country for years on end.
Due to this aspect, we can see that Samuels creates a defiant contrast between the different types of mother/daughter relationships in the play. She portrays Helga and Eva’s relationship as very uncompassionate, and rather cold, where as Lil and Eva share a very loving relationship full of care and warmth. Samuels clearly displays how through sending their children away, parents distanced themselves from their children during the Kindertransport process. The longer they spent a part, the further they separated, and the more different they became as individuals. Samuels makes this clear throughout the play.
For example, the fact that Helga gives Eva jewellery emphasizes that she doesn’t want her to forget her past life in Germany. Jewellery stands as a metaphor for family relationships, so Helga gives it to Eva as a symbol of their family love, and also as a reminder that they’ll always be with her in memory, if not in person.
The fact that she gives Eva “two rings” and “a chain with the star of David “is very symbolic, as the fact that there are two rings shows that there is a bond between two people, as like in marriage. To me this stands as a contract that will always bind Eva to being a part of her true family, as like it would within a loving marriage. It stands as a symbol of their love. Secondly, the Star of David will stand as a reminder of Eva’s true heritage to ensure she never forgets her roots, which she never actually does!
However, the fact that Eva wants to sell the jewellery later in the play symbolizes how through separation the family becomes broken. “I’d rather have the money,” suggests that they are of no use or meaning to Eva after her parents fail to arrive in England. The broken promise triggers the broken family, and Eva feels neglected by this. Eva’s separation from the jewellery mirrors the separation from her family, and stands as a metaphor for the damage the distance has caused between family relationships.
We also see this when Helga arrives in England many years later, as the language barriers create a distinct separation between Eva and Helga. “I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand” highlights how Eva has moved away from her German roots, and has adapted to her new English life quite easily and happily, leaving her German heritage way behind along with her memories. This is emphasized through the stage direction “Eva tries to hug back, but it clearly very uncomfortable” as we see how weary the actress playing Eva must portray herself in order to grasp the characters deep confusion and awkwardness when in her mothers presence.
As well as this, Helga tries to force further separation on Eva when she arrives by saying “We will go to New York…These people were just to help in you in bad times. You can to leave them now behind.” Despite the fact that Eva is now settled and happy in England, Helga still tries to control her and make her renew herself again. This statement is actually very ironic due to the fact that the bad times are over for Eva, as she has moved on, and even changed her name to Evelyn in order to feel a part member of the English culture. The bad times are yet to come for Helga, as she now has to live her life without her daughter, as through sending her away she pushed her further and further away from her true heritage.
We also see the relationship between Evelyn and Faith throughout the play, and despite that fact that Evelyn puts a lot of effort into trying to be different from her own mother, we actually see how Evelyn mirrors her mother in the respect that she too is also a very controlling lady. By using commands such as “do it” when telling Eva to listen to the heel of her shoe we see how domineering Helga is too.
Evelyn tries to guilt Faith into staying at home with her instead of moving out; by saying things such as “What I want is irrelevant Faith. This is your life.” Instantly, this pressures Faith into pleasing her mother, as she doesn’t want Evelyn to think she doesn’t like living with her, so is therefore mentally forced into staying at home. This tells us that Evelyn is a very controlling and dominating mother, but this is mainly due to the fact that she doesn’t want to lose her daughter like Evelyn’s mother lost her. She doesn’t want past events to be repeated, and this is clearly shown through her domineering ways.
Overall, we can see that there is a variety of mother/daughter relationships projected throughout the play, and they all differ in many ways. Eva and Helga share a conflicting relationship, where as Lil and Eva share a more compassionate one based on mutual understanding. As well as this, Evelyn and Faith share a distant, turbulent relationship based on a foundation of secrets and lies. The similarities that draw between the different characters are that many mothers lie in order to do what they think is best for their children.
Helga convinces Eva to leave Germany without giving her a detailed understanding of the war’s consequences, and Evelyn hides her past life from Faith. Both characters hide the truth from their daughters in order to try and protect them from greater pain, and I think Samuels uses this aspect to convey that if you simply tell the truth from the start you will avoid the build of much more pain and heartache in the long run. She tries to tell her audience that to be a good parent, you must be honest with your children, despite what others may think is best.