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Train chugs off to recall Holocaust horror

world Updated: Sep 06, 2009 00:23 IST

AP
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Elderly Holocaust survivors have been reunited at a London railway station with the man who saved them on the eve of World War II — a now 100-year-old former stockbroker who rescued hundreds of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

“For me he is like a father," said Joseph Ginat, who was 10 when he traveled to England in August 1939 as part of the "kindertransports" organized by Nicholas Winton. "He gave us life," said the 80-year-old Ginat, whose brother and two sisters were also among the 669 children carried to safety. Their mother died in the Auschwitz concentration camp. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the rescue, a vintage train carrying some two dozen survivors along with members of their families, pulled into London's Liverpool Street Station on Friday after a three-day journey by rail and ferry from the Czech capital, Prague.

There, they were greeted by Winton. Frail and in a wheelchair, he stood briefly with the help of a cane and shook hands with the former evacuees as they stepped off the train.

"It's wonderful to see you all after 70 years," a beaming Winton told the survivors, some of whom he was meeting for the first time. "Don't leave it quite so long until we meet here again." Some gave him flowers, while others posed for photographs as a band played festive music.

Winton, whose parents were of German Jewish descent, was a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange when he traveled to what was then Czechoslovakia in the winter of 1938 at the invitation of a friend working at the British Embassy.

Alarmed by the influx of refugees from the Sudetenland region recently annexed by Germany, the young man feared —correctly—that Czechoslovakia soon would be invaded by the Nazis and Jewish residents would be sent to concentration camps.He immediately began organizing a way to get Jewish children out of the country.

Winton persuaded British officials to accept the children — as long as foster homes were found and a 50-pound guarantee was paid for each one — and set about fundraising and organizing the trip.