In the late 1930s, a British stockbroker named Nicholas Winton used his vacation time to take a trip to Prague. He ended up saving the lives of 669 children, mostly Jews, from almost certain death. These are some photos and documents from a scrapbook detailing his efforts, which is housed at the Yad Vashem archives in Jerusalem. At left is the scrapbook cover.
Historians believe Nicholas Winton was closely following what the Nazis were planning. According to Dr. David Silberklang, senior historian at Yad Vashem's Research Institute, Winton collected maps while in Prague. This map seems to look ahead to what Germany saw as its future in the coming decade. It features the Nazi slogan, "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer." One people, one empire, one leader.
Some of the children's photos are labeled "placed." According to Dr. David Silberklang, senior historian at Yad Vashem's Research Institute, in most cases "placed" meant that the child had been chosen by a British family. In some instances there was an "X" across the name of the child, which meant the child had been taken off the list, and the child may or may not have survived.
Dr. David Silberklang and his colleagues found records of the deportation of Hans Boehm, a name listed on the bottom row. They traced Boehm's journey from Prague to Theresienstadt, and then from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz in the summer of 1942 when he was 15 years old.
This is a travel document for one of the children Nicholas Winton helped. The child's name is Eva Fleischmann, whose sister Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines (nee Milena Fleischmann) is featured on Bob Simon's 60 Minutes story "Saving the Children."
(This document was saved by Eva Fleischmann, and does not appear in the scrapbook).
Credit: Eva (Fleischmann) Paddock
One of the children Nicholas Winton tried to help was 13-year-old Ruth Steckelmacher. In order to appeal to prospective parents, Steckelmacher included pictures of herself and a recommendation letter from a clothing designer she worked with in Prague. Suse Rotter, the designer, wrote of Ruth's talent in dealing with models and colors. On an adjacent page in the scrapbook are two sketches of her fashion designs.
On May 16, 1939, Nicholas Winton wrote to President Roosevelt asking if the Americans could take in any of the children. Winton received this letter from Rudolf E. Schoenfeld, first secretary of the American embassy in London, in response to the letter he sent the president.
This letter from the mother of a 9-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter was sent to Queen Mary in the spring of 1939. According to Dr. David Silberklang, senior historian at Yad Vashem's Research Institute, the mother pleaded with the Queen writing (in German), "I'm writing to you as one mother to another. Please help me save my children." On the bottom left corner is a stamp from the Office of the Private Secretary to Her Majesty Queen Mary Marlborough House, which states, "This letter has not been acknowledged."
Nicholas Winton's mother Barbara is seen here answering phones in her son's London office. Mrs. Winton took on such a major role in the rescue missions that many of the thank you letters in the scrapbook are specifically addressed to "Mrs. Winton."
This newspaper article from June 10, 1939, mentions the arrival of 130 Czech children at a Liverpool Street platform. There is great color and detail about the meetings between the foster families and children -- how the families knew very little about what to expect and many children were unaware of the nature of their trip.