Child of ‘Britain’s Schindler’ appeals for help for refugees
LONDON (AP) — The daughter of a stockbroker nicknamed ‘Britain’s Schindler’ for saving Jewish children from the Nazis appealed Saturday for the child refugees of today to be treated with similar compassion.
Barbara Winton’s late father, Nicholas, rescued more than 650 Czechoslovakian children, most of them Jewish, by putting them on trains to the U.K. and helping them escape Nazi-occupied Europe on the eve of World War II.
In a letter posted on the website of the grassroots aid group Help Refugees, Winton drew a parallel between those children and a new generation fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
“Even at a time when city evacuations were being planned for British children, homes were found for these vulnerable young refugees,” she said of the Czech children resettled during the late 1930s. “Now, 77 years later, vulnerable young refugees again seek the kindness and welcome that British people previously offered.”
Britain is under pressure to accept young refugees from the Middle East and Africa after the closure of a large migrant camp in the French city of Calais, known as “the jungle.” But there has been resistance to the idea, particularly after the vote to leave the European Union, which was fueled by public unease with growing immigration.
“Those who have travelled across Europe to Calais, to escape the life-threatening dangers of their home country, are hoping desperately to find the sanctuary their parents dared to believe Britain would once again offer,” Winton wrote.
Nicholas Winton was a 29-year-old London stockbroker in December 1938 when a friend asked him to go to Prague to help in the refugee camps. He decided to do more after seeing that the children of those considered enemies of the Nazis, who had annexed part of western Czechoslovakia, were not being cared for.
When Winton returned home, he set to work by taking letterhead from the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, then typing underneath the words “Children’s Section.”
He eventually wrung a promise from the British government to let the children enter the country, provided he had a foster home arranged for each one and upon payment of a guarantee of 50 pounds per child.
Winton drew up lists of some 6,000 at-risk children and encouraged British families to take them in. He arranged trains from Prague to the Netherlands, then ferries to take the children across the North Sea.
The children from Prague helped by Winton were among some 10,000 mostly Jewish children who made their way to Britain on what were known as Kindertransports (children’s transports) just before and during the first years of the war. Many never saw their parents again.
Nicholas Winton’s exploits led to comparisons to Oskar Schindler, whose efforts to save Polish Jews were featured in the film “Schindler’s List.” Winton died last year at age 106.
“He continued to act and help others throughout his life and believed that actively assisting those in need was the most rewarding and ethical way to live,” Barbara Winton wrote of her father. “Therefore, I believe that the most appropriate way of honoring his memory would be to show the same concern and compassion he did then, for those in danger and in need now.”