Lord George Weidenfeld, a Jewish member of the British House of Lords who fled to Britain in 1938 because the Nazis arrived in his native Austria, is funding a rescue mission of up to 2,000 Christian families in Iraq and Syria suffering at the hands of the terror group ISIS.
Weidenfeld, who is an honorary vice-president of the World Jewish Congress and recently received the WJC's Theodor Herzl Award, 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, organized 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.
In an interview with 'The Times' newspaper, the 95-year-old 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 at the age of 106 and who had organized the rescue of 669 Jewish children from the Nazis in 1939.
Lord Weidenfeld’s fund aims to provide between 12 and 18 months of paid support to the refugees.
Confronted with criticism that his project was only aimed at saving Christians and Jews, but not Muslims, Weidenfeld said: "The primary objective is to bring the Christians to safe haven. 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.”
Photo: Shahar Azran