By Stacey Saiontz
During the blizzard, my family was snowed in with our very special house guest, Barbara Winton. Barbara Winton is the daughter of humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton and Author of the book about his life titled If it is not Impossible. Ms. Winton was in New York, as she was one of the speakers at the United Nations Annual International Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.
Winton and I had been in touch a few years prior. As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I serve as the Co-Chair of the Museum of Jewish Heritage’s Annual Spring Ladies Luncheon. Each year we honor a female Holocaust Survivor. A couple years ago, the honoree, Hanna Slome, attributed her story of survival to being one of “Nicky’s children” and explained that she was saved from the Nazis by being put on the Kindertransport from Prague to England that was set up by Sir Nicholas Winton.
In 1938, Sir Nicholas Winton, a stock broker in London, England responded to a request from his friend Martin Blake to join him in Prague. Blake had gone to Prague to help the Jewish refugees who had fled to Prague after Germany annexed the Sudetenland. After viewing the situation in Prague, Winton decided he needed to find a way to help the children. At the time, Kindertransports were helping children leave Germany and Austria to travel to safety in England. However, no one had set up a way to help the Czech children. Winton convinced the Home Office in England to agree to allow Czech children to be evacuated to England. The Home Office required a foster family to look after the children and a monetary amount to assist with repatriation at the end of the war.
Winton successfully organized eight trainloads of children, saving 669 children. The last train, the largest yet, was cancelled right before its departure as Germany invaded Poland resulting in the Czech border being closed. Unfortunately the majority of these children are thought to have died in concentration camps.
Although, Winton knew about her father’s work to save the Czech refugees, the mass public found out about his deeds in 1988, when a TV presenter in England discussed Winton’s rescue and announced on live TV that most of the audience in the studio were saved by Sir Nicholas Winton. It is estimated that there are approximately 6,000 people in this world who owe their existence to Sir Nicholas Winton.
While staying at our home, we organized a dinner honoring Ms. Winton. Three of her father’s “children” along with several Ambassadors joined us. It was so moving to see the “children” interact with Ms. Winton. Winton explained that while her father decided to organize the rescue mission because it was the right thing to do, he did not realize at the time the impact he would have on the childrens’ lives. It was not until meeting the “children” as adults that he realized how important his actions were on the “children’s” lives. May we all be inspired by the Sir Nicholas Wintons of the world to act ethically and try to make a difference in the lives of others.
Stacey Saiontz, a lawyer living in Chappaqua with her husband and two sons, is the co-chair of the Associates Board of the Museum of Jewish Heritage-A Living Memorial to the Holocaust; a board member of the Auschwitz Jewish Center Foundation; and a member of the Next Generation Board of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. She is also a Committee member of the Chappaqua Cure in our Lifetime and serves on the Advocacy board of FARE, the Food Allergy non-profit.