On Monday 28th January Brighton College welcomed Barbara Winton as the guest speaker for our annual Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture. Ms Winton gave a moving and powerful talk on the work of her father, Sir Nicholas Winton, who was responsible for organising the evacuation of 669 children from Czechoslovakia in the build-up to the Second World War.
The event was organised by our Head of Critical Thinking, Mr Skeaping, who offered the following reflections on Ms Winton’s lecture:
“In the autumn of 1938, just over eighty years ago, Nicholas Winton made a fateful decision. With his holiday plans cancelled due to the chaos in Europe on the brink of World War II, he accepted the invitation of a friend to travel to Czechoslovakia and see the refugee camps that had sprung up, as Czech Jews and socialists fled the Sudetenland following the Nazi occupation in October 1938. With the whole country facing imminent invasion, Winton decided to act. On his return to Britain, he approached the Home Office directly and gained their agreement to allow unaccompanied children to be brought to Britain - on the condition that he arranged foster families in Britain to take them in. Over the course of the following year, Nicholas Winton and his contacts in Prague arranged for 669 children to be evacuated on ‘Kindertransport’ trains bound for Britain. Amongst them was Lord Alf Dubs, who now campaigns for the safe passage of child refugees, and the noted immunologist Leslie Brent.
In our annual Holocaust Memorial Day Lecture, Barbara Winton reflected on the significance of her father’s actions, both at the time and today. Whilst explaining in fascinating detail the historical context in which he acted, she was also clear in emphasising the similar challenges the world faces today. She pointed out that the conflict in Syria has created the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the end of the Second World War, and yet campaigners have criticised the UK government’s sluggish efforts to meet its commitment to settle 3000 children from this war-torn region. Above all, Barbara Winton stressed how, as individuals, we can take action to make a difference to others. Although he saved the lives of 669 children, Nicholas Winton initially considered his own efforts to have been a failure, as he had thousands more children for whom he was unable to find accommodation when war broke out in September 1939. Barbara Winton explained that it was only when he met those who he had helped to survive, fifty years later, that he had come to the realisation that his actions had made a profound difference. For the rest of life he wore a ring given to him in Czechoslovakia, with the inscription – ‘Save One Life, Save The World’. Ms Winton’s inspiring lecture also challenged us to follow her father’s example, and to do our bit to help those in need today.”
Many thanks to Ms Winton for a timely and thought-provoking lecture.