Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The designated escape route was for the children to cross into the Netherlands, from where they were to embark via ferry to England. However, after Kristallnacht, the Dutch government officially closed its borders to any Jewish refugees. Jews seeking to escape the Netherlands were captured and returned to Germany. Nonetheless, Winton outwitted immigration officials by, among other means, paying bribes and forging immigration documents, and he ultimately found homes in England for the children, most of whose families would later be murdered at Auschwitz. Returning to London after three weeks in Prague and frustrated by British bureaucracy, he undertook to coordinate the massive effort to settle the children – raising funds, coordinating transports, and locating families for the children who would serve as hosts and guarantors.

Although many more Jewish children were saved from Berlin and Vienna through other kindertransport efforts, Winton’s was unique in that he worked virtually alone. He estimated that he could have saved an additional two thousand children had America agreed to take them, but his impassioned letter to President Roosevelt bore no results. Tragically, as President Weizman discusses in his letter to Winton, the ninth train and largest transport, the final group of 250 children who were scheduled to leave Prague on September 1, 1939, was unable to depart because that very day Hitler invaded Poland, launching World War II. As Winton tells it, the train quickly disappeared:



None of the 250 children on board was seen again. We had 250 families waiting at Liverpool Street that day in vain. If the train had been a day earlier, it would have come through. Not a single one of those children was heard of again . . .


Winton had not disclosed his epic wartime activities even to his wife, and the children themselves remained unaware of their savior. His achievement remained unrecognized for over half a century, until 1988, when his wife Greta happened upon a detailed scrapbook in their attic containing lists of the children, which included their parents’ names and the names and addresses of the families that had taken them in. She gave the scrapbook to Elisabeth Maxwell, a Holocaust researcher and wife of media magnate Robert Maxwell, and the story became broadly known after the BBC tracked down some eighty of “Winton’s Children” and arranged for an emotional reunion on prime-time television.

Winton instructed his wife to destroy the scrapbook but, fortunately, she sent it to Yad Vashem. On the last pages of the scrapbook were reports summarizing the entire operation. Exhibited here is the appendix to Winton’s October 2, 1939 “Statement of Children Brought Over up to the 1st September 1939 Showing Our Commitments for Re-Emigration Guarantees,” signed by Sir Nicholas, which shows the number of children on each of the eight transports and the source of the funds for their later repatriation.

In 2003, Sir Nicholas was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his work on the Czech Kindertransport, and his awards and honors include a nomination for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize and receipt of the Wallenberg Medal (2013). A film about his valor, “Nicholas Winton – The Power of Good,” won an International Emmy Award (2002), and there are now more than 6,000 people descended from “Winton’s Children.”

Yehi zichrono baruch.



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Saul Jay Singer serves as senior legal ethics counsel with the District of Columbia Bar and is a collector of extraordinary original Judaica documents and letters. He welcomes comments at at [email protected].