Associated Press Writer Nadia
Nicolas Winton, then a 30-year-old
clerk at the London stock exchange, first visited Czechoslovakia in late
1938 at the invitation of a friend working at the British Embassy. He
spent only a couple of weeks in Prague but was alarmed by the influx of
refugees from the Sudetenland, which was recently annexed by Germany -
after the Munich Conference. Back in London, Winton immediately began
organizing transports to get the children out of the country,
cooperating with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia
and the Czechoslovak travel agency Cedok. Winton correctly feared that
Czechoslovakia soon would be invaded by the Nazis.
He managed to save 664 children --
most of them Jewish -- before World War II started in 1939. The
youngsters were sent to foster parents in England, and none saw their
parents again. "When I got back to England, the most important thing to
do was to find out if the government would help," Winton said during a
debate organized by Prague's Jewish community.
He only had to visit the Home Office,
Britian's Interior Ministry, once to convince the government. They
allowed him to bring in as many children as he wanted, provided he
guarantee each one a foster family and enough money to pay for
repatriation after the war.
Vera Gissing was one of those
children, arriving in England shortly before her 11th birthday. "Until
1988, I had no idea who was the mastermind behind all that." She learned
of Winton's role while writing a book about the experience. Not even
Winton's wife knew what he had done until 1988, when the Wintons were
cleaning up their loft and found lists of the children and letters from
When he visited Israel in 1989,
Winton gave the documents to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in
Jerusalem. "They even wanted to include me among the Righteous Gentiles,
until they found out ... that I was not entirely gentile," Winton joked.
Winton says he was not trying to find
out what happened to the children he had saved after the war. "Once the
children were safely in England, for me, my operation was complete," he
said, adding the whole operation took only six months. Gissing is
working on a biography about Winton and helps him organize meetings with
the children he once saved. Although they live all over the world, about
120 meet regularly. She said she had found another 20 living in South
America recently. Nine gathered lately with Winton in Prague.
Winton still regrets that he wasn't
able to expedite the biggest transport, scheduled for Sept. 1, 1939.
None of the children set to flee that day survived the following years.
Gissing said 250 children should have been on that transport, her
cousins among them. "But when you realize that Nick has saved almost 700
children, he saved quite a big portion of my generation," she said.
Kein Geld und kein Interesse:
Ein Besuch in München
Der angedachte - und leider bisher
nicht finanzierbare Besuch der 'Winton-Kinder' aus Prag in München, der
Stadt in der 'alles Unglück mit dem berüchtigten Abkommen begann'.
Die damaligen Kinder (u.a. die Tochter des
ehem. Herausgebers des 'Vorwärts') wollten mit heutigen deutschen
Kindern sprechen. Wir hatten weniger an Podiumsdiskussionen - mit
Monitoren rechts und links im 'offiziellen Bierzelt', sondern viel eher
an persönliche Gespräche beim Pizzaessen gedacht. Die Pizza hätten wir
bezahlt. Die 'Prager Gäste' wären auf eigene Rechnung angefahren. Für
die Unterbringung im Hotel hätten wir aber einen Zuschuß der
Landeshauptstadt München bzw. des Freistaats Bayern benötigt.
Steinbach, Stoiber und die Sudeten:
auch nichts mehr nützen