- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 28, 2009


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.”


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.

“The ruling parties enjoy built-in advantages that will make it hard to translate severe public disappointment into clear repudiation at the polls,” Joost Hiltermann, the group’s deputy Middle East program director, said in a report released Tuesday.

“They will make use of their superior access to wealth and patronage to influence the vote.”

Iraqis vote Saturday in 14 of the country’s 18 provinces, and parties that boycotted the elections in 2005 are participating in this balloting.

Mr. Hiltermann added that “fraud is feared” and the opposition is “hopelessly divided.”

Robert Malley, the group’s Middle East and North Africa program director, is more optimistic and hopes that the elections will present a “peaceful turning point” for Iraq.

“Despite likely shortcomings,” he said, “[the elections] may begin to redress some of the most severe problems associated with the 2005 vote, assuring fairer representations for all segments of the population.”

• Contact Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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