George Weidenfeld says he has a 'debt to repay' after Christians helped him reach and settle in Britain in 1938
A Jewish peer, who was helped by Christians flee Nazi-occupied Austria and settle in Britain, is showing his thanks by funding a rescue mission of up to 2,000 Christian families in Iraq and Syria suffering at the hands of ISIS.
George Weidenfeld, a crossbench peer, said he had a “debt to repay” 77 years after the Plymouth Brethren, a Christian group, took him in after he reached Britain in 1938. Quakers played a key role in the Kinderstransport, an operation that evacuated children in danger of persecution by the Nazis.
The first phase of Operation Safe Havens, organised by the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund, saw 150 people flown by privately-chartered plane from Syria to Poland last Friday with the permission of the Polish government and Syria’s Assad regime.
Speaking to The Times, Lord Weidenfeld, 95, said: “I had a debt to repay. It applies to so many young people who were on the Kinderstransports. It was Quakers and other Christian denominations who brought those children to England. It was very high-minded operation and we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians.
“The primary objective is to bring the Christians to safe havens. ISIS is unprecedented in its primitive savagery compared with the more sophisticated Nazis. When it comes to pure lust for horror and sadism, they are unprecedented. There never was such scum as these people.”
The publisher indicated that he wanted to emulate philanthropists such as Sir Nicholas Winton, who passed away earlier this month.
Lord Weidenfeld’s fund aims to provide between 12 and 18 months of paid support to the refugees.
However, the project has faced criticism for focusing on saving Christians and Jews but not Muslims.
“The primary objective is to bring the Christians to safe haven,” Lord Weidenfeld told The Times. “I can’t save the world but there is a very specific possibility on the Jewish and Christian side. Let others do what they like for the Muslims.”