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BISC commemorates Alfred Bader’s journey on the Kindertransport

Performances and viewing of documentary highlight special day of events at the Bader International Study Centre.

  • The BISC Choir and Diana Gilchrist perform
    The BISC Choir and Diana Gilchrist sing three movements from Queen’s alumnus Eleanor Daley’s 'Requiem'. (Photo by Oliver Browning)
  • Sue Read, director, Children who cheated the Nazis
    Following the viewing of 'Children Who Cheated the Nazis' director Sue Read discussed her film and answered questions from the audience. (Photo by Duncan Watkinson)
  • Musical performance at BISC
    As part of the special event at the BISC, violinist Midori Komachi performed with pianist Shelley Katz. (Photo by Oliver Browning)
  • Craig Walker, BISC commemorates Alfred Bader’s journey on the Kindertransport
    Craig Walker, Director, Dan School of Music, reads extracts from Dr Alfred Bader’s autobiography. (Photo by Duncan Watkinson)

The Bader International Study Centre (BISC) held a special celebration on Sunday, Nov. 25, to mark 80 years since its founder, Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86), left Vienna on the Kindertransport.

Some 100 guests gathered to view the documentary, The Children Who Cheated the Nazis (2000), followed by a musical concert in honour of Dr. Bader, who, along with his close friend Ralph Emanuel, assisted filmmaker Sue Read in the making of the film. It was especially poignant to remember that Dr. Emanuel, who remains Dr. Bader’s closest friend, is the son of Bessy Emanuel, who answered the Home Office’s call, 80 years ago to the day, for British families to provide homes for refugees from Europe.

The Children Who Cheated the Nazis was screened in the Castle’s ballroom. Narrated by Richard Attenborough, this powerful film tells the story of the 10,000 children, among them a young Alfred Bader, who came to Britain in 1938 to escape the Holocaust.

Images of small, terrified children, forced to flee their homes without their parents left many in the audience visibly moved, and yet there was also a message of hope. Many of the survivors who shared their honest and inspiring stories described how proudly they bore their emotional scars and what they had accomplished with their lives since the war. Director Sue Read answered questions from the audience after the screening in an informal, yet candid Q&A session. She said the film, which took her the best part of five years to research and complete, “totally changed my life.”

In the second half of the event, Craig Walker, Director of Dan School of Drama and Music, prefaced each element of the musical program with extracts from Dr. Bader’s autobiography. Each excerpt recounted Dr. Bader’s memories of the war and gave those in attendance a personal insight into his journey from his birthplace in Vienna, to the United Kingdom, and then Canada, to the man we know today – Commander of the British Empire, chemist, proud Queen’s alumnus, art collector, and philanthropist.

The audience was treated to performances from world-renowned violinist Midori Komachi, soprano Diana Gilchrist, and the BISC Choir. Directed by Shelley Katz, the musical programme took the audience on a journey with the young Alfred.

“The BISC was pleased to work closely with Isabel Bader on this event and to welcome so many of the Baders’ close friends to the Castle,” says Hugh Horton, Vice-Provost and Executive Director of the BISC. “It has been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate Alfred’s life with them, and with our students. Today provided all of us with valuable insights into a truly remarkable man.”

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Alfred Bader (Sc’45, Arts’46, MSc’47, LLD’86) and Isabel Bader (LLD’07) are Queen’s most generous benefactors. They have given back to Queen’s in countless ways: transforming the campus, enriching the student experience, supporting scholarship, and helping to enhance the university’s reputation as a top-tier educational institution. In an extraordinary philanthropic gesture, the couple funded Queen’s purchase of a 15th-century English castle – Herstmonceux – that has been meticulously restored and is now home to the Bader International Study Centre.