Once his story became known, multiple honors and awards recognized Winton’s selfless work, including being knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2003 and a tribute private passanger train journey that departed from Prague on September 1, 2009, and followed the path the September 1, 1939, Winton Kindertransport would have traveled. At the age of 106 years, Winton died peacefully in his sleep with his daughter and grandchildren at his side on July 1, 2015. The day also marked the 76th anniversary of his largest train to leave Prague, carrying 241 children to safety.
Liberty, sometimes when we start a research project, it reveals information we weren't expecting. Despite the fact that Winton did not like what Hitler was doing, he was a member of the Labour Party as a Democratic Socialist. (see ) He confesses that his faith faded as he found himself supporting both sides of the war. While he disagreed with Hitler's Holocaust against the Jews, he did not equate that to Hitler's socialist politics. It would also explain why he admitted his colleagues at the time had different political views than him.
Unfortunately, it is no different in America today. Politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders, who's running for president, and freshmen Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, proudly admit they are Democratic Socialists. When confronted with the devastation socialism has brought to Venezuela, they excuse it saying, "That's not real socialism," or "It's because they didn't do it right." It appears that Winton felt the same way about Hitler's National Socialists (Nazis). Regardless, he did see the abomination in Hitler's actions and did what he could to save children's lives.
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez would likely say their support of illegal aliens flooding our borders is not unlike Winton rescuing the children in Prague. However, like most socialist arguments, the truth is the complete opposite. First, it was just children and Winton had to find sponsors for them before they were allowed to board the train. They would be provided for by individual families, not an ever-expanding government program. Second, the children were expected to return to their parents and their own nation once the threat was over. Third, Winton rescued the children by taking them away from their tormentors. While some of the aliens are coming here because they are truly fleeing an evil people, unrestricted passage allows the evil people to invade our country too. These are people using the women and children seeking freedom as sex slaves and drug mules. Members of drug cartels, MS-13 gang, murderers, and rapists are being appeased by Democrats like Neville Chamberlain appeased Hitler, with similar results. (see and ) The children crossing the southern border of the US are all too often pawns used by the drug cartels, as Democrats recently passed legislation that forces border agents to automatically release a person who enters with a child. Winton saved children. Those crossing the southern border are using them as “Get out of Jail Free” cards, before selling them as sex slaves.
As I’ve told you time and time again, Liberty, no one is perfect. Therefore, we shouldn’t dismiss the good one does because they also have qualities or principles we disagree with. We should celebrate the good and reject the bad. Despite agreeing with Hitler’s socialist agenda, Winton did draw a line at killing innocent Jews, which should rightfully be praised. Perhaps today's Democrats will see the same errors in the modern socialist party.
Winton saved 669 children. Those children went on to marry, have their own children and grandchildren, enjoy careers and life, and making their own impacts on the world. Thousands of lives have been touched and affected by "Winton's Children," with the number growing every day. Liberty, you will often wonder if what you are doing is making any difference. You may never see the results, but you will never regret taking a stand, taking action, and doing the right thing.
That’s my 2 cents.
May 19, 2019
Nicholas stood and watched as the children departed the train. There were only 20, but that was 20 children Adolf Hitler would not get. Seeing their faces only made him more determined to continue his efforts. Little did he know, his time was quickly running out.
The second of Rudolph and Barbara Wertheim’s three children, Nicholas was born on May 19, 1909. When the Jewish German couple moved to Hampstead, London, in 1907, they changed their name to Winton so as to better assimilate. Likewise, they baptized their children and raised them as Christians.
Rudolph’s success as a banker allowed the family to live well in a 20-room home. As young Nicholas grew, his father groomed him in the business. One of the first students at the exclusive Stowe School in Buckingham, Winton left early to begin working in several banks in Germany and France, where he learned both nation’s languages fluently. Winton returned to London as Hitler rose in power, and began a career as a stockbroker.
While preparing for a winter trip with his long-time friend Martin Blake, Winton received word the trip was off. Instead, Blake was heading to Prague and asked for Winton to join him. Two months prior, England's Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, signed the Munich Agreement, or Pact, on September 30, 1938. Declaring "peace in our time,” he tried to appease Hitler by giving him the German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia. (see ) The next day, Nazi troops marched into the Sudetenland as thousands of people flooded Prague, the nation's capital, fearing Hitler’s oppressive hand upon the Jews was growing stronger.
Tensions skyrocketed when a Polish Jew assassinated a German diplomat. In retaliation, Nazis started their revenge on November 9 on Jewish businesses, hospitals, homes, schools, cemeteries, and synagogues. (see ) The abundance of broken glass in the streets earned the 2 days of mayhem the name Kristallnacht, or “The Night of Broken Glass”. (see ) Soon after assuming power in 1933, Hitler started implementing oppressive policies against Jews and establishing concentration camps. Nazis arrested 30,000 Jews during the riot, confining them in concentration camps, as Hitler’s primarily non-violent policies against the Jews ended following the rampage.
Once the news of Kristallnacht reached Prague, Jews scrambled to flee before Hitler overran the entire country. The riot also prompted the House of Commons to grant refugee status to unaccompanied children under 17, as long as they had a sponsor and a £50 guarantee for their eventual return ticket. Under the British Committee for Refugees, Britain started plans to bring in children from Germany and Austria in a program called Kindertransport.
The immediate threat caused Blake to cancel his trip, asking Winton for his assistance helping a friend in the British Committee coordinate efforts for refugees in Prague. Once Winton arrived, he toured the refugee camps and witnessed the desperation in people’s eyes. The British Committee worked frantically to find passage for the elderly and sick, yet no program had been set up for the Czech children. Parents pleaded for help, and Winton answered the call using the Kindertransport model.
With no official organization developed, Winton took a British Committee for Refugees note pad and wrote, “Children’s Section” below the header. Dubbing himself chairman, he opened an office at a Prague hotel, to which thousands of parents quickly arrived. For several weeks, Winton gathered applications, photographs, and made lists of children. He returned to London in early 1939 with the information on 100s of children. Two friends, Trevor Chadwick and Bill Barazetti, stayed behind to coordinate the program in Prague while Winton started the process of finding host families in London, raising the required funds, and arranging the transportation.
Not officially associated with the British Committee, Winton received no funds or office space to do his work. Unitarian Reverend Rosalind Lee provided £100 to start his operation, which he partially used to print articles and requests for hosts in the Picture Post and other papers. Still employed at the stock exchange, Winton’s job permitted him to leave at 3:30pm. Upon leaving his office, he returned home and worked on rescuing children through the evening.
Winton petitioned Democrat President Franklin D. Roosevelt for help. However, Roosevelt agreed with Hitler’s eugenics ideology and philosophy regarding Jewish inferiority. (see ) Therefore, he declined Winton’s request, just as he rejected a shipload of Jewish refugees that spring, forcing them back to Europe and their deaths. (see ) Winton later proclaimed he could have saved many more children if Roosevelt had helped.
As hosts responded to Winton’s ads, they chose children to sponsor from pictures and information he provided them. On March 14, 1939, the first Kindertransport from Prague arrived at the Liverpool Street Station with 20 children. Not appeased, Hitler seized Bohemia and Moravia, claiming them as a German State, a few hours after the train left Prague. The following day, Hitler overtook Prague, riding victoriously through the streets as his troops occupied the rest of the country. There would not be “peace in our time.”
For the time being, Winton continued his efforts throughout the summer as Hitler allowed Kindertransports to leave the area. Due to his success, the British Committee finally recognized Winton in August, providing him with an office and some funding. Unfortunately, the program would end just a few weeks later. As the largest trainload prepared to leave on September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, officially starting what would become World War II. (see and ) Already on the train, the 250 children never left the station as Hitler closed the borders. Their fate lost to history.
Only a handful of people were aware of Winton’s work. In addition to those in Prague helping him, a lady from the Christian council performed the necessary typing duties while his mother handled issues that arose with the children once they arrived in London. Scared and confused, children sometimes didn’t adapt right away, so Barbara coordinated and managed these matters. His colleagues, most of whom Winton admitted possessed different political views as his, had absolutely no idea what he was doing.
Over 10,000 German and Austrian children, as well as the 669 Czechoslovakian children Winton saved, were rescued in Kindertransports. Not all were Jews as some belonged to families Hitler blacklisted as political opponents. While Hitler halted Winton's strategy, fortunately others, like Irena Sendler, continued the rescue of Jews fallen into the Nazis' hands by other means. (see )
With his program shut down, Winton tucked his folder of articles, applications, and photos away in a chest and forgot about the records as the war continued. Turning his focus to serving in other ways, Winton initially registered as a conscientious objector and joined the Red Cross. (see ) Eventually changing his mind and entering the Royal Air Force, or R.A.F., he resigned his commission on his 45th birthday in 1954 with the rank of honorary flight lieutenant.
For a short time after the war, Winton worked with the Committee for Refugees in London. The Army discovered numerous boxes hidden in caves containing personal items such as false teeth, glasses, watches, jewelry, and the like. Germans confiscated these items from their victims after they died in starvation camps or before sending them to the gas chambers. (see and ) In the Nazis' eyes, Jews were as equally invaluable as these items and were discarded just as easily. With the owners long massacred, Winton was tasked with separating anything of value or that could be returned to family. Items containing gold and silver were smelted down, while some pieces were shipped to America to be auctioned. Authorities tried to return such articles as paintings, carpets, and fur coats, when they could find the rightful owner’s families. All proceeds collected were donated to the Jewish Agency, which eventually was given to Israel when it became its own state on May 14, 1948. (see )
Taking a job with the International Bank in Paris, Winton met Grete Gielstrup, whom he married October 31, 1948. They settled in Maidenhead, England, and had three children, Nick, Barbara, and Robin, who was born with Down syndrome and died shortly before his 6th birthday of meningitis. Greatly affected by his son’s death, Winton founded Maidenhead Mencap, a support organization.
Grete had no idea of her husband’s involvement in the Kindertransport until she found his box of records in the attic in 1987. Not seeing it important, Grete had to persuade Winton from throwing it away. Instead, she gave it to Holocaust researcher, Elisabeth Maxwell, who gave it to That’s Life! host, Esther Rantzen. Rantzen invited Winton to a show in February of 1988, but did not inform him of any details. Placing him strategically in the front row, Rantzen sat on stage with Winton’s scrapbook. Focusing on a particular name, Rantzen informed Winton he was sitting next to the young woman he saved. After wiping away a tear, Rantzen invited anyone else in the audience who was rescued by Winton to stand. Winton turned around to see himself surrounded by dozens of adults that were part of his Kindertransports. Calling themselves “Winton’s children,” most had no idea who saved them until they were contacted by the show. When the war ended, most of these children were orphaned. The majority stayed in England with their adopted families, with only a few returning to Czechoslovakia. Others emigrated to Israel, Australia, or America.
THE FORGOTTEN RESCUE