by Lisa Alford
I am so moved by an article I read about Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from the Holocaust. His wife found a scrapbook in their attack with pictures, names, and documents of children whose parents gave them up to save their lives. These children were tagged for slavery, abuse, scientific experimentation by trained, educated scientists. They were highly cultured and advanced from Germany and no-one would have ever imagined the atrocities carried out on any human being. Thank God for people who saw what was going on and decided to do something about it.
Mr. Winton was a London stockbroker who cancelled his skiing trip to help refugees in the western region of Czechoslovakia. Jewish shops, homes, and synagogues had just been struck and it seemed hopeless for the children. Britain started a program in 1938 called Kindertransport to sponsor Jewish children up to age 17 if they had a host family. There was no mass-rescue effort in Czechoslavia so Mr. Winton created one. He organized nine railroad trains of children, with many bribes, secret contacts with the Gestapo, and a lot of money to try to get them to safety. He registered 900 children and left two friends in charge while he found foster homes, arranged transportation, and raised money for their mission. His mother volunteered and many other printed photos of the children for newspaper ads and church bulletins to raise money. Many Czech families sold possessions to pay for the children’s escape. Mr. Winton made up the difference for any funds needed.
Eight of the nine trains made it out before the last train was seized. It is believed the last train’s passengers were taken to the concentration camps and then murdered. On July 30th we had the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. I see how history could repeat itself and it makes me wonder if I would be an Upstander should this ever happen again, or a bystander. Never before have I had such an awareness as I do now of human trafficking and oppression of groups of people, and how quickly things can happen to change a society. May I always be an Upstander if that time comes and not allow this to happen without expressing my voice.