Sir Nicholas Winton, Now 100, Greets Them Again on Train Platform
By NICK WATT
LONDON Sept. 4, 2009—
This morning a steam engine pulled into London's Liverpool Street Station. On board: 22 Holocaust survivors who had traveled 700 miles across Europe from Prague in the Czech Republic. And there to meet them on the platform: The man who saved their lives 70 years ago.
The last time they made this journey it was the late-summer of 1939. They were children, and the Nazi armies were advancing. In those tense times, 669 mainly Jewish children boarded specially chartered trains at Prague's Wilson Station, bound for England and safety.
"Our father was, when we were leaving, he was in the next room sobbing," Alice Masters told ABC News today on board during the final leg of the journey from the English coast.
Alice and her sister Josephine - sitting side by side as the train rattled towards London - never saw their parents again. "We had letters from them until 1942," Alice told us. "The last letter was March '42. And they were taken away to the concentration camp on June 6, 1942."
Hanna Slome, a sprightly 84-year old who eventually settled in New York, was just 14 when her mother dropped her at the station in Prague. Today Slome remembered the last words they exchanged: "She just said, 'I'm packing you up and you're going. And I'll be there. I promise you I'll be there.'" Her mother died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
This journey, Slome and other survivors said, on the 70th anniversary of their flight from Czechoslovakia is in memory of their parents, in memory of all those murdered by the Nazis, and in honor of the man who saved them from near certain death.
Back then Sir Nicholas Winton was an ordinary, fun-loving London stockbroker. But when he heard stories from friends in Prague of Jews losing their jobs and homes under Nazi occupation, Winton decided to do something.
Fearing that worse was to come, Winton decided to save as many Czech children as he could. He masterminded their incredible escape.
Winton raised money, begged the British government to grant visas, chartered the trains, forged papers, and found families in England to adopt the children.
Sir Nicholas Winton Is Now 100
In 1939 Winton was there on the platform to greet the children. This morning, now 100-years-old, he was waiting on the platform once again, frail, but still standing and leaning on a cane. He shook hands with each survivor as they got off the train.
"The trouble 70 years ago was getting them together with the people who were going to look after them," Winton said today. "I've got no responsibility this time."
Just the grateful thanks of the 669 he saved and their descendants. There are, they say, 7,000 of them scattered all over the world.