Press Advisories

1. 2. 2010 13:32

Prime Minister Jan Fischer attends the book release event for "Winton Train – A Return to London 70 Years Later"

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer attended the book release event for "Winton Train po 70 letech znovu do Londýna [Winton Train – A Return to London 70 Years Later]," by Magdalena Wagnerová and Milan Vodička. Guests at the release event were also able to see excerpts from a Czech Television documentary on last year's historic train journey from Prague to London.

Inspiration for the book came from Sir Nicholas Winton, the British rescuer of several hundred Czechoslovak Jewish children. It tells their stories and at the same time maps the path of the special train which, in September 2009, set out again on a journey from Prague to London to commemorate Winton's deeds.

In 1938, just before the outbreak of World War II, Nicholas Winton, then a 30-year-old bank official, interrupted a winter vacation to head to Prague. There he joined the rescue of Jewish children from the then-Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia, who faced death in concentration camps. He managed to organise the transport of 669 children by train from Prague to London, where they found safe haven among British families.

"Citizen Nicholas Winton probably had unbelievable foresight, because however bad it was at the time, the world had not yet heard the term "Endlösung [Final Solution]." With this foresight, he managed to pull these 669 children away from the horrors they would have later endured, and undoubtedly a huge majority of these would not have returned," Prime Minister Jan Fischer said in his speech.

Nicholas Winton does not consider his deeds to be anything extraordinary and never spoke about them himself. The public found out about his acts only in 1988, when his wife, Greta, found the lists of children and corresponding documents. She later handed these over to historian Elizabeth Maxwell, who organised a meeting between Winton and the children he saved for the BBC television programme "That's Life." "What might be the most amazing thing about it is that we found out about it with a great delay and practically not directly from him," Prime Minister Fischer said.

The historic Winton Train left Prague's Hlavní nádraží [Main Train Station] on 1 September 2009 to commemorate the childrens' transport. The train copied the same route as 70 years earlier. Nicholas Winton personally awaited them on 4 September at Liverpool Street Station. Some of the "children" who were rescued took part in the journey. The first train set out on 14 March 1939 and the last set out on 2 August of the same year. The ninth train was supposed to be the most crowded, with a departure planned for 1 September. But the Nazis cancelled it. Most of the child passengers who were supposed to get to London on that train did not survive the e war.

"I think it is only necessary to pay tribute to these acts, to bow deeply before him," Prime Minister Fischer announced.

Nicholas Winton has also worked in Great Britain in such areas as elderly care. Queen Elizabeth II knighted him for his acts. Winton received the Order of T.G. Masaryk from then-Czech President Václav Havel.

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Jan Fischer Quote

Premiér Jan Fischer / Prime Minister Jan Fischer

"Citizen Nicholas Winton probably had unbelievable foresight, because however bad it was at the time, the world had not yet heard the term "Endlösung [Final Solution]." With this foresight, he managed to pull these 669 children away from the horrors they would have later endured, and undoubtedly a huge majority of these would not have returned.