Needed Now: A Syrian Kinder-Transport

The United States should invite 25,000 Syrian families to send one child 10 years or younger to the United States. There they would stay in foster homes until the war is over. The family could reclaim them any time they choose (they should leave instruction if the child would be available for adoption or be retrieved by other family members if they perish). Because of the age of the children, nobody could claim that they pose a security risk.

There is a very successful precedent for this idea. Such a kinder-transport took place in 1938. It followed Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, on November 9 and 10, 1938, during which the Nazis took more than 30,000 Jews to concentration camps.

In response to Kristallnacht, the British government agreed to allow thousands of children -- no limit was ever publicly announced -- under the age of 17 to enter Great Britain from Germany. The understanding was that the children would emigrate from Britain when the conflict was over.

In Britain, the cost of taking care of these children was covered by various religious groups and private donations. The same could be done for the Syrian children in the United States, though it would greatly expedite things if the government could cover that cost, at least initially. The program might well also be extended to children of families who are in the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon -- places where they live under extremely dire circumstances and face recent cuts in humanitarian aid by the United Nations.

The British kinder-transport is credited with having saved the lives of many thousands of children, most of whose families perished in the Holocaust. Syrian children now face bombings of their schools and neighborhoods and hence should be helped in the same way.

I know what I am talking about. I was born in 1929 in Germany as a Jewish boy. I escaped the Nazis in 1936, thanks to a different kind of transport.

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor and Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube. To subscribe to his monthly newsletter, send an e-mail with the subject line "Subscribe" to