- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009

HIDDEN HEROISM

A modest English hero who rescued more than 600 Jewish Czechoslovak children from the Nazis and kept his exploits secret for 50 years was honored Tuesday when British and Czech diplomats commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day in Washington.

Jaroslav Kurfurst, the deputy chief of mission at the Czech Embassy, and Dominick Chilcott, his counterpart at the British Embassy, toasted Nicholas Winton, who will turn 100 in May, at a diplomatic reception. Mr. Kurfurst distributed a new English translation of a Czech biography of Mr. Winton called “Lottery for Life.”

Although Mr. Winton was not present at the reception, one of the children he saved, Alice Masters, is in Washington to help the Czech Embassy with its annual Holocaust educational program.

The embassy’s outreach to U.S. students includes a documentary on Mr. Winton, who was a 29-year-old stockbroker when he arrived in what was then Czechoslovakia at the invitation of a friend who worked at the British Embassy in Prague.

He soon learned of the threat to Jewish children and set up an office in his hotel room to begin his rescue mission, which became known as the Czech Kindertransport.

Mr. Winton worked with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia and the Czechoslovak travel agency, Cedok, to arrange transportation to Britain, where he also found foster homes for the children.

He never talked about his efforts that saved 699 children and even kept his exploits from his wife, Greta, who eventually discovered his secret when she found some of his papers in the attic of their English home in 1988.

The Nazis sent more than 15,000 Jewish Czechoslovak children to death camps, where only about 100 survived the Holocaust.

“A large part of the Czechoslovak identity was destroyed by the Holocaust, and the Czech Republic actively works to educate youth and perpetuate the lessons of this historical travesty,” Czech Ambassador Petr Kolar said earlier Tuesday at a commemoration at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

“Such atrocities must never take place again.”

Later at the diplomatic reception, Mr. Chilcott said, “The victims of the Holocaust were human beings, as we all are, with similar hopes and aspirations for themselves and their loved ones.

“We must never lose that sense of contact with them, nor forget them. The death camps warn us of the terrible extremes of which human beings are capable.”

ANXIOUS ANALYSTS

Foreign-policy experts at the International Crisis Group are worried about this weekend’s provincial elections in Iraq, where they fear the major parties could manipulate the outcome of the vote and deepen a sense of public discontent with corrupt and ineffective politicians.

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