The extraordinary courage and foresight of a man who helped almost 700 children flee the Nazis will be highlighted at the first anniversary of Huddersfield’s Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre.
A panel discussion will feature Barbara Winton, whose late father Sir Nicholas Winton rescued hundreds of children from the Holocaust, and Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, one of the Kindertransportees he saved.
The pair will not only share their incredible stories but will draw parallels between how Jewish child evacuees were treated in 1939 and today’s attitudes towards refugees.
The discussion will form part of a celebratory tea party to mark the centre’s first anniversary on Sunday September 15th – which coincides with this year’s Heritage Open Days, Britain’s largest grassroots festival.
The centre is the only resource of its kind in the north of England. Based at Huddersfield University, it opened a year ago with the help of National Lottery funding. Since then, more than 5,000 visitors have experienced the ground-breaking interactive exhibition, Through Our Eyes, that tells the poignant stories of 16 survivors and their families through original artefacts, film, photographs and their own personal testimonies.
Stories of discrimination, persecution, concentration camps, escape and liberation are told through interactive touchscreens, followed by a digital memorial to local families and testimonies of how survivors rebuilt their lives here in Yorkshire.
The anniversary event will be attended by Holocaust survivors and their families, who are members of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA), which campaigned for 20 years to get the project off the ground.
The discussion will hear, through the words of his daughter Barbara, how Sir Nicholas Winton rescued hundreds of children before arranging foster care for them when they arrived in England.
As a young stockbroker in London in 1938 with a German Jewish background, Sir Nicholas became keenly aware of the situation unfolding on the continent. Having witnessed members of his own family fleeing Germany in the 1930s, he realised something must be done after he witnessed the conditions refugees in Czechoslovakia were living in while volunteering in Prague. Children had little to eat or wear, desperately trying to keep warm in freezing refugee camps.
Convinced that war was around the corner, Sir Nicholas refused to wait to see if organisations taking children out of Austria and Germany could also help those in Czechoslovakia. He was given the go-ahead to organise trains to transport the children on the premise that each had a family to go to, and that a £50 registration fee would be paid.
Barbara said this part of the story was remarkably similar to what is currently happening to refugees today: “It’s extraordinary really. There were newspaper headlines saying ‘we don’t want enemy aliens here’ which is shocking but so resonant with what’s going on today. However, many people took in children; some families even sent their own child away to a grandparent or aunt because they didn’t have room. Despite not being well off, they felt it was their duty to help.”
Also taking part in the discussion will be Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, one of the children rescued from Prague by Sir Nicholas’s Kindertransport. Born in Czechoslovakia in 1929, her father fled the country the day before the Nazis invaded but had to leave his wife and children behind.
At the age of nine, Lady Milena and her younger sister Eva were taken out of the country on one of eight trains organised by Sir Nicholas and cared for by a family in England until their mother was able to escape a year later via Norway.
The discussion begins at 2pm on Sunday September 15th at the HELC. Tickets cost £7 (£5 concessions) from https://holocaustlearning.org.uk/events/in-discussion-milena-grenfell-baines-and-barabara-winton/