Friday, January 9, 2009

Winton's Children

Nicholas Winton with children on board his Kindertransport from Prague.

Winton with one of his young evacuees.

In the late 1990s, the small town of Leesburg, Virginia began receiving unexpectedly large gifts from the philanthropist Irwin Uran, who had relocated to Leesburg after a successful investing career in New York City and fallen in love with the town. Before his death in 2007, Uran had donated $3 million for the construction of the first synagogue to be built in Loudoun County that is now home to Congregation Sha'are Shalom on Evergreen Mill Road south of Leesburg. He made numerous other donations to local fire companies, the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center and the Loudoun County Animal Shelter. Many of Uran's donations were not publicly announced.

Uran’s donation of $3 million to the Loudoun County Public Library funded a program to promote “better relations between all people.” This gift has enabled the library to build an exceptional collection of scholarly and popular works on the Holocaust, among them several dozen documentary DVDs. All My Loved Ones (Vsichni moji blízcí [1999]) by the Czech director Matej Minac, is included. This is a good film for adolescents and young people studying the Holocaust, and a good starting point for a classroom or family discussion of how one individual can choose to go good in the face of evil.

All My Loved Ones tells the story of Nicholas Winton, an English stockbroker who saved the lives of nearly 700 Jewish children by arranging their emigration from Czechoslovakia during the early days of the Nazi occupation. Winton, however, is not the story-teller: He, in fact, discussed his exploits with no one in Britain, not even his wife, who discovered his heroism decades after the fact by looking through his old scrapbooks. This film, part documentary and part historical reconstruction, was written based on the personal account of 11-year-old David Silberstein, who was sent by his family out of Prague on the last departure of the special trains Winton hired at his own expense to evacuate Czech-Jewish children--his Kindertransport. David left behind a loving family, no member of which survived the Nazi occupation of Poland, and his childhood sweetheart, who he never saw again.

Survivors of Winton’s Kindertransport call themselves Winston’s Children. Among them, they have over 5,000 grandchildren.


Linda said...

Fascinating. Thank you.

Hels said...

I find two things extraordinary about this story. Firstly that an ordinary bloke, without vast family income or connections, can make a very real difference in this world. Secondly that he didn't tell anyone! Stunning!

Thanks for the link
Art and Architecture, mainly

Christina said...

Thank you for your comment, Hels. This story inspires me because it so clearly demonstrates that great human goodness can be inspired by evil.