The moving tributes to Sir Nicholas Winton (1909-2015) as part of last weeks Memorial Service for him at London’s Guildhall raised several thoughts. It may have been skilful camera work but the images on ITV showed no politicians or well known faces apart from Esther Rantzen. Simply people whose lives or relationships were made possible as a result of the kindertransport. It was the lack of widespread support from various Governments and politicians that meant that the number of children rescued was so much smaller than Winton had hoped. He suggested later that a further 2000 could have been saved had other Governments had stepped in or indeed if our own had relaxed their demand that as well as organising the transport, he found homes for these children fleeing from the horrors of Kristallnacht.
The responses in 1938 seem so similar to the reactions today from our Government and others to those fleeing the death and destruction in places like Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. The partial Government U turn over the amendment proposed by Alf Dubs seemed less a graceful admission of their error and more a stumbling attempt to avoid political damage. Is it too much to hope for, that a generation of those willing to be our representatives would be made of firmer stuff? Residents of Brighton and Hove and further afield have already offered homes to those fleeing war torn lands. We need Politicians who will embrace those offers and also do more to end wars. We still await the much promised strategy for our bombing of Syria which our Government debated on 2nd December!
Of course once people have died, it seems easier for Politicians to pay them tribute, after all there is no prospect of someone like Nicholas Winton challenging them for their own inactivity. David Cameron tweeted on Wintons death “The world has lost a great man. We must never forget Sir Nicholas Winton’s humanity in saving so many children from the Holocaust.” and Daniel Taub, Israeli Ambassador to the UK wrote “He was a hero of our time, having saved 669 Jewish children from the Nazi regime. His legacy, as a point of light in an era of darkness, will forever be remembered”. The fact is that today we need Politicians who are willing to understand how the example of Nicholas Winton should change their own actions. As he said “If people would work for a real ethical future….then most of humanity’s problems would be solved”