5 September 2009

Jews who escaped Nazis as kids recreate train trip

LONDON — Elderly Holocaust survivors were reunited at a London railway station Friday with the man who saved them on the eve of World War II — a now 100-year-old former stockbroker who rescued hundreds of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the rescue, a vintage train carrying some two dozen survivors along with members of their families, pulled into London's Liverpool Street Station on Friday after a three-day journey by rail and ferry from the Czech capital, Prague.

Winton, whose parents were of German Jewish descent, was a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange when he traveled to what was then Czechoslovakia in the winter of 1938 at the invitation of a friend working at the British Embassy.

Alarmed by the influx of refugees from the Sudetenland region recently annexed by Germany, the young man feared — correctly — that Czechoslovakia soon would be invaded by the Nazis and Jewish residents would be sent to concentration camps.

He immediately began organizing a way to get Jewish children out of the country.

Winton persuaded British officials to accept the children — as long as foster homes were found and a 50-pound guarantee was paid for each one — and set about fundraising and organizing the trip. He arranged eight trains to carry children through Germany to Britain in the months before the outbreak of war.

The youngsters were sent to foster homes in England, and a few to Sweden. Few saw their parents again.

The largest evacuation was scheduled for Sept. 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany. That train never left, and almost none of the 250 children trying to flee that day survived the war.

Winton never spoke about the heroic rescue, not even to his wife, and his story did not emerge until 1988, when she found correspondence referring to the prewar events.

Winton's wife persuaded him to have his story documented, and a film about his heroism, "Nicholas Winton — The Power of Good," won an International Emmy Award in 2002.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and honored in the Czech Republic. A statue of Winton was unveiled at Prague's central station before the train left on Tuesday.

But for many of those he saved, he is unambiguously a hero. It is estimated there are 5,000 people around the world who owe their lives to Winton — the children he saved and their descendants.



  1. amazing story... amazing man....

    in 63, as a kid, our family traveled thru europe and right now i can 'feel' being in anne frank's 'home'...

    a bunch of years ago i was working at a place for juvenile delinquents... one kid had a swastika tattoo on his arm... i asked him about it and he said, 'my friends told me to get it.. they say jews are bad, and that the tat is cool'.... when i asked what he knew about ww11 he said, 'nothing, really..'

    i told him about being at the dachau concentration camp in 73, and that i was about his age at that point.. i printed out a bunch of info on it for him, including some very graphic pics... he was lost-in-thought while reading of the horrors and seeing the pics.. he left our facility a couple of days later..

    a few months down the road, i got a phone call from him... he said he'd covered over his swastika with a chinese dragon tat.... i said i was glad to hear that... we shared a phone-smile... and then talked about how his life was going overall (it was good to hear that he'd also gotten his act together re his family probs and criminal acting out..)..

    re your story on nicholas winton, there's a 47 minute vid on him, but i'll just post this shorter one.. it's moving...

    thanks for posting about the power of good....

  2. Oh David, thankyou so much for leaving this. It's 10am and Im sitting here with tears streaking down my cheeks.. such a moving clip.. there is still alot of good in the world!!

    Re: yr mention of the young lad with the Swastika Tat, very moving for you I am sure. A job well done there David, very well done and I am so glad for his sake he took the time to think on the matter.

    There is a scene in American History X, which I found to be an extremly thought provoking film: this scene inparticularly...

    I added a blog just before moving to Multiply about another wonderful woman who helped many many children during War II here is the link if you get time to read it, I think you will find it interesting also.


    Lastly, I cant imagine what it would be like to visit Anne Frank's home or dachau, auschwitz, the killing fields in Cambodia... unfortunately the list is a long long one. But I do believe they should never be foregotten.

  3. This is an incredible bloggie. I am a huge WW2 buff, and I have read countless books about the topic. And I own American History X, it impacted me so much I had to have it. It is a learning tool, you know? But I still can't look at the scene where he puts the guys open mouth on the curb and kicks him (shivers). But the lesson here, is that a bridge can be built, eyes can be opened, hearts can be mended...Have you seen Freedom Writers? Another amazing movie, true story, and I cry every time I see the scene with the Holocaust survivor speaking to the kids towards the end...whewwwww. Good job Angie. (David, what an experience! Wish you would blog about that one!)

  4. Howdy Jen..thankyou so much for participating and leaving your comment. American History X was not a film I wanted to see... We had an Exchange student living with us in 2000 and she desperately wanted me to watch it with her... she told me that it was her favourite film and had left her thinking for weeks after she had viewed it (she had since watched it a few more times).. From the very begining the film packs a punch...I found, as Lea said it would, the film kept me thinking on it for many weeks after Id watched it. I Do remember vividly the scene you refer to and I cringe everytime I think of it.
    My 16 year old son admitted to crying at the end of the film.. I had a feeling before it ended what would happen.. but Brett hadnt. I think everyone Ive spoken with who have watched this masterpiece have all felt the same.

    Did you read the other link pasted under the video... well worth the read Jen.

  5. No, I didn't, but I will check it out now. I assumed it was the link to the article you posted, lol. Have a good night, what is left of it! LOL!

  6. Wow, the pictures were beautiful...so powerful. The thing that he doesn't seem to understand is that many people knew what was going on, yet did nothing. He thinks that he didn't do anything miraculous, but he did, he acted. He said he was never in danger, but had he been found out, he most certainly would have been in danger, or dead. That is the difference, to see that something is very wrong, and take the steps to make it right. He IS a hero.

  7. I had come accross several stories written by children, as they told of their escapes into Brittian.
    Unfortunately, these were unrelated to my Aunt, so were 'useless' material to me.
    I'm g;lad to see a man of his courage, honoured in the ways that he has been.