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In Vienna's Westbahnhof, there is a memorial statue commemorating the transport of at-risk children to Britain before the Second World War. The inscription reads:

GEWIDMET DEM BRITISCHEN VOLK IN TIEFSTER
DANKBARKEIT.
SIE HABEN DIE LEBEN VON 10.000 JÜDISCHEN UND
NICHT-JÜDISCHEN KINDERN GERETTET, DIE
ZWISCHEN 1938 UND 1939 VOR DER VERFOLGUNG
DER NAZIS NACH GROSSBRITANNIEN FLIEHEN
KONNTEN, DEN SOGENANNTEN
„KINDERTRANSPORTEN“.
[...]

Why is 'den sogenannten „Kindertransporten“' dative? If it's in apposition to a foregoing dative, the only possibility is 'Verfolgung', but that doesn't work. Or should it read: '..., in den sogenannten „Kindertransporten“'?

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    For reference: is this the monument in question?
    – marquinho
    Apr 4, 2022 at 14:40
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    Unless this an Austrian German particularity, there is at least an "in" or "mit" missing. I can deduce what is meant but the grammar is wrong.
    – user6495
    Apr 4, 2022 at 14:42
  • The other possibility is to read it as an apposition to a foregoing dative, but appended to "von 10000... Kindern". That would mean that the "sogenannt[e] „Kindertransport[e]”" would be a way of referring to the children themselves. IMHO an awkward expression, but conceivable.
    – marquinho
    Apr 4, 2022 at 14:42
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    @marquinho: Yes, this is the monument. I pass by it at least once a week. (I live in St. Pölten and when I arrive in Vienna at Wiener Westbahnhof, I pass this monument.) Apr 4, 2022 at 15:06

3 Answers 3

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The dative is determined by the preposition VON. The structure of the sentence is:

Sie haben die Leben von 10.000 [...] Kindern gerettet, [...], den sogenannten „Kindertransporten“.

Those 10.000 children constituted the "so-called Kindertransporte".

The image is admittedly a bit skewed because it was in fact not the lives of the transports which got saved but those of the transported children, but the grammar is just that.

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    One might add that a more idiomatic way to refer to the children would be "Kindertransport-Kinder" (which is, in fact, in use).
    – marquinho
    Apr 5, 2022 at 10:25
  • I admit I hadn't considered the possibility that it could refer back to 'Kindern', but the children are not also known as 'Kindertransporte', so it doesn't make a great deal of sense, as has been pointed out, and it's just too far away.
    – Maurice
    Apr 7, 2022 at 0:52
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You could argue that the dative is caused by the "Gewidmet dem..." from the previous sentence in a (sort of "spread") enumeration

Gewidmet dem britischen Volk. Sie haben ..., den Kindertransporten.

The bridging between the two parts of the enumeration is, however, almost lost by the in-between sentence.

Admittedly, this is a weak argument (and, thus, rather weak grammar), but, at least to me, the only possible argument for the dative (assuming that no words are missing in the badge).

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Here you can find a website about the monument. It was erected in 2008: https://www.geschichtewiki.wien.gv.at/Denkmal_Für_das_Kind_-_Rettung_jüdischer_und_nichtjüdischer_Kinder_1938

I know this small monument very well. I lived in Vienna from 1997 to 2015 and since 2016 I live in St. Pölten, and about once a week I travel to Vienna and when I arrive at Westbahnhof, I see this bronze boy sitting on the suitcase. I read the text a couple of times, but I never realized, that there might be something wrong. In fact I always interpreted it this way:

Gewidmet ...

  1. ... dem britischen Volk in tiefster Dankbarkeit.
    Sie haben die Leben von 10 000 jüdischen und nicht-jüdischen Kindern gerettet, die zwischen 1938 und 1939 vor der Verfolgung der Nazis nach Grossbritannien fliehen konnten.
  2. ... den sogenannten „Kindertransporten“

But you are right, this is not what is really written on the plate. The punctuation makes »den sogenannten „Kindertransporten“« unambiguously a part of the sentence starting with »Sie haben ...«. And in this sentence a dative object at the end makes no sense.

So, the inscription is grammatically incorrect. Maybe the intention was to write is as I interpreted it, but they didn't. Maybe they had a first version that was correct and then someone changed something and the result was what we see today.


btw:
At Vienna Main Station, the biggest railway station in Vienna, (3 km away from Westbahnhof) there also is a monument that had a wrong inscript when the station was re-opened after 5 years of reconstruction in 2014.

Here are pictures of this sculpture after they removed the original inscript: https://www.austriasites.com/vienna/bezirk10_markusloewe_im_hauptbahnhof.htm

And this was the original inscript (photo taken by me): original inscript

There are two errors is in the last two lines of the long paragraph. (Wrong grammatical case and additional letter in a word.) ORF (Austrian Broadcast Company) also brought a story about this error on their website: Rechtschreibfehler am Markuslöwen

Maybe both inscripts (2008: Wiener Westbahnhof, 2014: Vienna Main Station) where written by the same "expert"?

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    Well, I see one error (the obsolete "b") - But where's the "wrong grammatical case"?
    – tofro
    Apr 4, 2022 at 23:43
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    Your interpretation that "den Kindertransporten" were intended as a second object to "gewidmet" along with "dem Britischen Volk" is also contradicted by the arrangement of the words on the monument. Apr 5, 2022 at 6:43
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    @Tofro: Diese Skulptur kann nicht auf mehreren Pavillons zugleich ruhen, sondern nur auf einem. Der Pavillon ist nun aber männlich. Im Genitiv singular muss es daher des Pavillons heißen. Falsch: »Die Skulptur ruhte auf der Attika der Pavillons.« Richtig: »Die Skulptur ruhte auf der Attika des Pavillons.« Hier ist ein Foto von ca. 1875 auf dem man den Löwen auf der Attika eines der beiden Seitenpavillons sieht: sammlung.wienmuseum.at/objekt/… Apr 5, 2022 at 7:22
  • @HubertSchölnast Vielleicht erstreckt sich die Attika ja über mehrere Pavillons? Aber klar, wie man auf dem Foto erkennen kann, wäre das zumindest inhaltlich falsch…
    – Bergi
    Apr 5, 2022 at 9:32
  • Auf dem Foto sieht man zwei Seitenpavillons. Jeder von ihnen hat eine Attika mit einer Löwenfigur drauf. Somit ist "der Pavillons" als Genitiv Plural korrekt; man könnte sich allenfalls ein klarstellendes "jedes" davor wünschen. Apr 7, 2022 at 16:16

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