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Winston’s Children Share Their Stories

Nicholas Winton organized the escape of 669 children, mostly Jews, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II. After Mr. Winton died on July 1, at age 106, The New York Times asked the survivors, the original Winton’s Children, and their descendants — whose numbers now exceed 6,000 — to share their stories. Below are selected responses, edited and condensed for clarity.

Mr. Salz in 1943, in his Royal Air Force uniform

Mr. Salz in 1943, in his Royal Air Force uniform

Paul Salz, 91

Winton Child

I was 15 when my parents decided to send me to England. Before that, I had moved to Prague where my parents had an apartment. They were living in Stodo, Czechoslovakia, but were forced to flee when the Germans took over the Sudetenland.

I left Prague on one of Mr. Winton’s trains with 10 Marks in my pocket for spending money. At the German-Dutch border, German guards searched all of our luggage. They confiscated my 10 Marks.

In January 1940, I got word that my parents and brother were able to emigrate to the United States. At 20, I volunteered to join the Royal Air Force. I arrived in the United States in 1948 and reunited with my parents and brother after a little more than eight years.

I met my wife, Lottie, at the International House at the University of California, Berkeley. She was Czech, but did not have the advantage of being one of Winton’s Children. She had been put into the Terezin concentration camp, then Dachau. She survived but her parents did not.

We married July 1, 1953, and have two daughters and four grandchildren. I was an electical engineer at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory for nearly 40 years.

Ernst Steiner, fourth from the right, in Bratislava in 1939, shortly before his train journey to England. CreditAmit Yahav

Amit Yahav, 28

Grandson of Ernst Steiner, a Winton Child

My grandfather Ernst Steiner and his family moved to Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, when the Germans invaded Prague. He joined a group of children there who were taken back to Prague to join the main Kindertransport organized by Nicholas Winton in May 1939.

Tragically, they were only able to get a spot for Ernst, not his two brothers or his sister. At age 12, my grandfather bade farewell to his father and set off on a journey to England. He lived in a children’s home in East London that was run by some Jewish women.

From 1941 to 1942, my grandfather exchanged letters with his family with the help of the Red Cross through Switzerland. In 1943, the letters stopped.

The children, including my grandfather, were enrolled in the Jews’ Free School and, during the Blitz, were evacuated to the city of Ely in Cambridgeshire.

From 1941 to 1942, my grandfather exchanged letters with his family with the help of the Red Cross through Switzerland. In 1943, the letters stopped.

We later found out that his family had been sent to concentration camps. My grandfather’s father and older brother were killed at the Majdanek concentration camp in Poland. There are no death certificates for my grandfather’s mother, his younger brother or his younger sister.

Near the end of the war, in 1945, my grandfather — now 87 and living in Petah Tikva, near Tel Aviv — joined the British Army and served in the Jewish Brigade in Berlin and elsewhere in Europe. In 1948, when he was demobilized from the British Army, he immigrated to Israel, where he met and married my grandmother in 1950. They had two children and four grandchildren.

Peter Henry Sprinzels, 12, before leaving Prague on one of Winton’s trains, with his allocated number. CreditHelen Sprinzels

Helen Sprinzels, 60

Daughter of Peter Henry Sprinzels, a Winton Child

My father, Peter Henry Sprinzels, was one of the children rescued by Sir Nicholas Winton from Prague in 1939. Unlike most rescued children who were placed with foster families in England, his own father (my grandfather), was the guarantor.

I believe my father never talked about the train trip from Prague because of the painful memories associated with having to leave his mother when he was so young.

I recently visited Prague to try to find out what happened to his mother and his paternal grandmother. I discovered their names on the wall of a synagogue in Prague that displayed the names of victims of the Holocaust.

My father attended Cambridge University and emigrated to Australia around 1949 on a scholarship and earned his PhD in biochemistry from Melbourne University in 1953. He and my mother had three children and four grandchildren.

He died in 1989.

My family and I had a chance to meet Mr. Winton this year, before his death.

The diamond that Nina Klein’s mother gave to her daughter before she left on one of Mr. Winton’s trains. Credit Sarah Kova

Sarah Kovar, 33

Granddaughter of Nina Klein, a Winton Child

At 17, my grandmother Nina Klein was one of the children Sir Nicholas Winton saved. Both of her parents and most of her family were killed in concentration camps; her parents were killed at Auschwitz, being on one of the last transports from Theresienstadt. She later met my grandfather Viktor Kovar a soldier in the Free Czech British Army. They eventually returned to Prague where they had one child, my father.

Their home country was not what they remembered. Too many family members and friends had been killed and their communities destroyed, so along with their two-year-old, my father, they moved to Sydney to start a new life.

Her mother gave her this diamond and told her to keep it under her tongue the whole way to London. ‘Let no one see it,’ she said.

My grandfather died in 1971. My grandmother went on to marry again twice in her life, ending up in Washington D.C. where she lived with third husband, Morton (Buddy) Friedman, a retired federal judge. She died in 2009. My three brothers and I owe our lives to Sir Winton. We simply would not be here without him.

My grandmother wore a beautiful diamond ring her whole life. When I was little, I remember asking her where it came from. She told me that the last time she saw her mother was when she was put on Sir Winton’s train.

Her mother gave her this diamond and told her to keep it under her tongue the whole way to London. “Let no one see it,” she said. If my grandmother were to be captured by the Nazis, she was to use it to buy her future, perhaps using it to bargain for her life. She never saw her mother again. She kept that diamond under her tongue the whole way. She told me she wore it for the rest of her life, as she told me, to her, it represented survival.

Emma “Emmy” Speed in July 2011 with her daughters, son-in-law and grandchildren in Southampton, Ontario. Credit Claire Speed

Claire Speed, 53

Daughter of Emma Speed (née Zucker), a Winton Child

My mother, Emmy, was 13 years old when she boarded the sixth and largest of the Kindertransports that made it out of Prague on July 1, 1939.

I once asked her how she felt as she waved goodbye to her mother, Helen, who was standing in the darkness on the platform of Prague’s main train station. “I felt nothing,” she replied. “I was numb.”

Her father had committed suicide, having said that, at his age, he would be a hindrance to his family’s efforts to begin life anew outside of the country.

Four months prior to her leaving, so much had changed for her family. Her father had committed suicide, having said that, at his age, he would be a hindrance to his family’s efforts to begin life anew outside of the country. In his note to Emmy, he wrote: “Forgive your father, for he can do no more for you.” Her brother Ernest had already left for England. Her mother, having just lost her husband and her son, wasn’t about to say goodbye to Emmy. A German woman finally convinced Helen: “If she were my child, I would send her.”

My mother lived for five years with her foster family in Nottingham, where she attended a Catholic high school. In 1944, she took a merchant ship to New York en route to Mexico to join her mother who managed passage from Prague just before the war broke out.

Emmy earned a scholarship to attend Rosary College in Chicago. After that she worked at a Catholic newspaper in Kansas City and then New York, eventually moving to Toronto where her mother and brother had settled. She married my father, a British immigrant, in 1956. They had five daughters.

Hanus Grosz, right, and Karel Grosz working in a field in Warborough, Britain. Credit Anita Grosz

Anita Grosz, 59

Daughter of Hanus Grosz, a Winton Child

My father, Hanus Grosz, and his brother, Karel Gross, from Brno, Czechoslovakia, were saved by Nicholas Winton. My father was 15 and my uncle was 13 when they left for England. Their father died in Terezin and their mother was killed in Auschwitz. They were sponsored to come to England by Lilian Bowes-Lyon, a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The boys were first placed on a farm in Warborough to do manual labor, followed by a series of farm training camps. My father went to Czechloslovakia after the war to look for family. In Prague there were boards where you could search for family names, but he didn’t find anything. In 1948, he started medical school at the Welsh National School of Medicine where he specialized in psychiatry.

He felt there was a lot of anti-semitism in the English medical field, so around 1959, he moved to Einstein University Hospital in New York to receive training in neurology. He went on to teach Psychiatry and Neurology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. After retiring he focused on helping victims of crime and people struggling with addiction. He died in 2001.

Hanna Slome, left, with her mother, brother and father in the Tatra Mountains in 1935.Credit Hanna Slome

Hanna Slome (née Beer), 90

Winton Child

It was my mother who must have found out about Nicholas Winton and signed me up.

On May 15, 1939, I left Prague on a train for England. I had just turned 14. My mother assured me the night before that we would soon be together again. I never saw her again.

I ended up in the same boarding house in London where my father and brother had been staying. They had left Ostrava, in Moravia, a province of Czechoslovakia, on March 15, 1939, and reached England as refugees.

My friend Marion’s family sent me a copy of the list of names, and there was my name. That’s how I found out that I, too, was one of Winton’s Children.’

My father committed suicide when he found out that my mother had died in a concentration camp, and my brother committed suicide later, when faced with the prospect of retirement.

I left England in 1944 and moved to the United States, where I settled in Queens. I married in October 1948, and my husband died shortly after our 25th wedding anniversary. We have two children and seven grandchildren.

I had never talked much about my rescue, and I didn’t want to relive that part of my life.

But in 1999, a friend, Marion Feigl, who was one of Winton’s Children, told me about a Czech-language film, “All My Loved Ones.” I watched it, and at the end of the film, there was a list of names, but my eyes were filled with tears, so I was unable to read the names.

My friend Marion’s family sent me a copy of the list of names, and there was my name. That’s how I found out that I, too, was one of Winton’s Children.

Shulamit Amir (née Englander), 88

Winton Child

I was saved by Sir Nicholas when I was 12 years old. My mother sent me on the train that left Prague on May 13, 1939. I never saw her again.

I spent the war years in London, where my father was waiting for me. By chance, he had not been in Czechoslovakia when the Germans invaded. He made his way to England, hoping that my mother would manage to get me out.

When I finished school, I went to teacher training college. I moved to Israel in 1947 to marry a man who was serving in the Jewish Brigade, which was part of the British Army. We have four children, 10 grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.

My father stayed in England until his death in 1972.

Copyright: New York Times 2015

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