Jews Who Escaped Nazis as Kids Recreate Train Trip


winston-train-projectA vintage train carrying 24 Holocaust survivors pulled into London today, ending a three-day trip across Europe that marked the 70th anniversary of the survivors’ extraordinary rescue by a young British stockbroker. Waiting on the platform at London’s Liverpool Street Station to greet them was Nicholas Winton, age 100, who organized the rail “kindertransports” that carried hundreds of mostly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to safety.

The steam train carried 170 people, including two dozen veterans of the evacuations and members of their families.

Winton, frail and leaning on a stick, shook hands with the former evacuees as they stepped off the train from Prague.

In late 1938, Winton was a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange who had traveled to what was then Czechoslovakia 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, Winton immediately began organizing transports to get the children out of the country. He correctly feared that Czechoslovakia soon would be invaded by the Nazis.

Winton persuaded British officials to accept the children, as long as foster homes could be found, and set about fundraising and organizing the transport. He arranged eight trains to carry 669 mostly Jewish children through Germany to Britain in the months before the outbreak of World War II.

The youngsters were sent to foster homes in England, and a few to Sweden. None saw their parents again.

Winton has been honored in the Czech Republic, where a statue of him was unveiled in Prague before the train left on Tuesday.

{Seattle Times/Noam Newscenter}