Prague memorial to Jewish children who escaped Nazis vandalized

Farewell Memorial at central railway station removed from its frame and cracked, apparently by hammer blow

A young Nicholas Winton with a rescued child. (photo credit: Courtesy of Menemsha Films)
A young Nicholas Winton with a rescued child. (photo credit: Courtesy of Menemsha Films)

A glass memorial that recalls the escape of hundreds of mostly Jewish children from the Nazis has been vandalized at Prauge’s central train station, where it is displayed.

The Farewell Memorial recalls the 669 children who boarded trains at the station during the spring and summer of 1939 and, leaving their parents behind on the platform, were taken to Britain before the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia. Most of their parents were murdered during the Holocaust.

A glass panel in the memorial was apparently removed from its frame and hit with a blunt object, cracking it in half.

Police opened an investigation but there have been no arrests.

The monument features a replica of a train door from 1939 with the imprints of hands of children on one side and of the window and parents on the other, symbolizing those who bid farewell to each other.

Jan Hunat, a Czech engraver who designed the glass for the memorial, told the Guardian the damage to the window appeared to be deliberate and he believes the vandals removed the glass from its wooden frame with a chisel or screwdriver and then hit it with a hammer.

“One hundred percent, this was planned,” Hunat said. “The person who did this has definitely gone prepared to do it. The glass is 18mm thick and there’s no way it could have been broken otherwise. On one of the hands, even the tips of the fingers are broken.”

Zuzana Maresova, 87, who, together with her older sisters, was on one of the trains that left Prague in 1939, said she believed the attack was anti-Semitic but that such a motive was hard to prove. Maresova, who helped organize the memorial, said she would strive to see that it is repaired, although it now belongs to Czech Railways, which would be responsible for the work.

Posted by Valediction Memorial on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The memorial recalls the efforts of Sir Nicholas Winton, a British humanitarian worker who organized eight train evacuations in 1939. It was unveiled in 2017 by some of the children saved by the train transports.

Winton’s daughter Barbara tweeted about the vandalism, writing, “How very sad to see this.”

Hunat told the Guardian that a full repair would require engraving a new window for the piece.

According to the federation of Czech Jewish organizations, there are no surveillance cameras in the area, reducing the chances of finding the culprit.

Winton’s actions in saving the children became widely known after a February 1988 BBC live television audience program, during which he was reunited with more than two dozen of the children he saved. Winton, who received multiple awards and honors for his efforts, died in 2015 at the age of 106.

Most of the children saved by Winton, who arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport and were taken in by British foster families, never saw their parents again.

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