Former Jewish refugees from the Nazi regime who found safety after fleeing as children to the UK have called for the British government to allow more Syrian refugees into the country.
Sir Erich Reich, chairman of the Association of Jewish Refugees’ Kindertransport group, made an impassioned plea to Prime Minister David Cameron in a letter that recalled how the UK’s compassion 70 years ago saved the lives of thousands of Jewish children, the Jewish News reported on Friday.
“Without the intervention and determination of many people who are of many faiths, I – along with some 10,000 others – would have perished,” he wrote. “I strongly believe that we must not stand by, while the oppressed need our help. We cannot ignore the sight of desperate people and in such a crisis we must act to save the most vulnerable refugees: the children, and provide them with the same sanctuary I, along with others, was fortunate to receive.”
The Kinderstransport saw the last-minute rescue of nearly 10,000 Jewish children evacuated from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the-then semi-autonomous Free City of Danzig during the nine months preceding the start of World War II. During 1938-1939 batches of children were transported to Britain where they were housed in schools, farms, hostels, and foster homes. Many were the only members of their families to survive the Holocaust.
“I urge you to commit the United Kingdom to once again demonstrate its humanitarian compassion by providing a safe haven to many more of the children fleeing persecution in war-torn Syria,” wrote Reich.
The Austrian-born Reich escaped on a Kinderstransport at the age of four. His parents were murdered in the Auschwitz death camp in Poland and Reich went on to establish a travel charity organization that raised tens of millions of pounds for hundreds of UK charities. He was knighted for his charity work in 2010.
“Many of my fellow Kinder turned adversity into triumph and went on to leave a rich legacy to their adopted homeland,” he said. “Given the same opportunity, some of the refugees we help today could equally make invaluable contributions to British society.”
The Sunday Times reported that Britain is prepared to accept some 15,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict.
Cameron has been under pressure internationally and domestically to address the burgeoning crisis.
On Thursday, he said he was “deeply moved” by images of three-year-old Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi, found dead on a Turkish beach.
Cameron now intends to expand Britain’s vulnerable persons relocation program, take in around 15,000 refugees and launch military action against people traffickers, the report said.