Nicholas Winton organized a rescue operation that brought approximately 669 children, mostly Jewish, from Czechoslovakia to safety in Great Britain before the outbreak of World War II.
Securing the Children’s Exit from Prague
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But the time we really got going, the Germans were in charge because they arrived in March ’39. And then, of course, they had to get exit permits from the Germans for these children to leave. They then had to arrange with [inaudible] to get a train and they then had to arrange for escorts to go with the train. They then had to find out from [inaudible] how much the operation would cost and we had to send out money eventually to cover that cost. [Inaudible] then used blackmail tactics and two days before the train was due to leave they’d say they wanted another thousand pounds or something, which was a lot of money in those days, which once you got all the children moving to a railway station in Prague and once you got all the people who are going to receive the children in England posted that they had to be at Liverpool Street Station at a certain time, it’s not an operation that you could cancel. Whatever they’d ask for somehow or another we would have had to produce. But there was a lot of work to be done in Prague and it was done very well. The work we had to do in England was to find… to meet the conditions which the home office had laid down, which was having a guarantor fifty pounds for each person, which they designated as being money which would be used for the children’s eventual repatriation at the end of the war, if there were a war. There wasn’t a war to start with. And then we slowly got people coming in saying, yes that they would take a child. And that accelerated when a lady came to me who had been working for the British Committee and brought me all the names of their correspondence throughout the country. So I was able to use that with an appeal for children, which of course always brings results. For children and animals, the two most easiest things to get sympathy and raise money. So, it went slowly but it did work. I mean we never got, obviously, as many guarantors as we wanted, but we didn’t have an awful lot of time to work on them. And when we got a guarantee for a reasonable number of people, we’d produce the paper work, send it out to Prague, and Prague then had all the job of arranging the trains and the escorts and the money and dealing with all the parents and getting the children onto the train. It was quite an operation in Prague.