'British Schindler' greets survivors
A British man who saved hundreds of children from the Holocaust by organizing train rides out of Nazi-occupied Prague welcomed nearly two dozen survivors and their families who had boarded a train to re-enact the three-day trip.
"It's wonderful to see you all after 70 years," said Sir Nicholas Winton, now aged 100, as he greeted the survivors at London's Liverpool Street Station.
"Don't leave it quite so long until we meet here again."
Hundreds of Londoners converged on the station to watch the steam train carrying 170 people, including 22 survivors of the evacuations and members of their families, arriving at the same place they came to safety 70 years ago.
The train made stops in Nuremberg and Cologne, as people lined the tracks to wave to them along the way.
Survivors brought their children and grandchildren to accompany them on the three-day journey.
"He was very nervous about being there today," said Adrienne Arsenault, who interviewed Winton at his home. "He wasn’t clear whether he would be celebrating their survival or mourning the fact that more countries didn’t agree to take those children back in 1939."
The children also included veteran CBC reporter Joe Schlesinger, whom Winton spoke to over the phone during the interview.
"It was a nice moment to watch him talking to Joe and worrying about Joe — being very protective as he is and so very proud of everything that Joe has accomplished." Arsenault said.
Following a trip to Czechoslovakia in late 1938, Winton, a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange, organized trips to get Jewish children out of the country. He feared the country would soon be invaded by the Nazis.
He began fundraising, working with British officials to accept the children and finding them foster homes.
Winton arranged eight trains that carried 669 mostly Jewish children through Germany to Britain in the months before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Former British prime minister Tony Blair praised him as "Britain's Schindler," after the German businessman Oskar Schindler, who also saved Jewish lives during the war.
Winton has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth and honoured in the Czech Republic. A statue of Winton was unveiled at Prague's central station before the train left on Tuesday.
With files from The Associated Press