Jerry Lewis – The Jerusalem Post
95-year-old Briton finances project as a way of repaying his debt to those who rescued him on the Kindertransport.
LONDON – Lord George Weidenfeld, 95, who was brought up by English Christians after he escaped the Holocaust as a Kindertransport refugee just before World War Two, has announced he is helping to rescue some 2,000 Christian refugees from jihadist persecution in both Syria and Iraq. He is doing so, he said, because he feels he still has “a debt to repay” to Christians.
The Vienna born philanthropist, whose world famous book publishing company bears his name, recently decided on the move after recalling that, shortly after he arrived in Britain in 1938, a Christian group, the Plymouth Brethren, cared for and brought him up, along with other Jewish refugees.
“I had a debt to repay, it applies to so many of the Kinder. It was Quakers and other Christian denominations who brought those children to England. We Jews should be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians,” he explained.
He has volunteered to help pay for up to 2,000 Christians to be airlifted out of the war zones in the next year to 18 months and to cover the costs of their eventual resettlement. Funding for his initiative has come from a number of other Jewish philanthropists and charitable groups.
The first group of 150 Syrians arrived in Warsaw last Friday en route to being rehoused in Poland under the aegis of his Safe Havens Fund. As they prepared to board the plane in Beirut, it was reported that some refugees hid their faces from reporters for fear that it might endanger their relatives still living in areas controlled by ISIS.
He personally paid for a privately chartered plane to carry the first batch of refugees, with the agreement of the Polish government and the Assad regime in Syria.
“It was a very high-minded operation and we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians,” Weidenfeld said, adding that he hopes to mirror the work done by Sir Nicholas Winton, who helped to organize the Kindertransport trains that saved 669 Jewish children from the Nazis. Winton died, aged 106, on July 1.
Weidenfeld has been criticized for concentrating on saving just Christians and ignoring the millions of Muslim refugees. He responded by insisting his primary objective is to bring Christians to a safe haven.
“I can’t save the world,” he said, “but there is a very specific possibility on the Jewish and Christian side. Let others do what they like for the Muslims.”
Weidenfeld added that ISIS is “unprecedented in its primitive savagery compared with the more sophisticated Nazis. There never was such scum as these people.”
The United States has declined to participate in his effort, while several other countries have accused the initiative of being a form of discrimination.