British-Jewish Lord Attributes Life Success to Acts of Christian Charity in Wake of Nazi Persecution
A British-Jewish dignitary said this week that he attributes his success in life to the Christians who helped him get a new start after he fled Nazi persecution.
Lord George Weidenfeld, 96 — a British baron, philanthropist, publisher and columnist — wrote in an op-ed for the UK’s Daily Mail on Sunday that in his “time of greatest need,” he was taken in by the Plymouth Brethren, a family of evangelical Christians. The chairman and co-founder of Weidenfeld & Nicolson, which published such classics as Nabokov’s Lolita, lauded the family’s “act of Christian charity.”
Weidenfeld recounted leaving his home country of Austria for Zurich in 1938. An only child, he said his parents sent him away “because they loved me too much not to.” At the time, his family’s bank accounts were frozen and his mother supported them by selling belongings.
With the help of a refugee committee in Zurich, Weidenfeld traveled to the UK, arriving in Dover in August 1938. He had little money in his pocket and a permit to stay in England for three months. At first, he lodged at a boarding house in King’s Cross, where he survived on a pittance.
“I had some letters of introduction but they were useless beyond providing me with free meals,” the British lord explained. “I would trudge from party to party stuffing myself with food.”
Weidenfeld then met the Brethren, who gave him a place to sleep, food to eat and even supported him financially through his studies. When his father — who had been imprisoned by stormtroopers in Austria in March 1938 — was released in 1939, the Brethren vouched for him and his wife at the immigration office. Afterwards, the Weidenfelds moved to London.
“The three of us were able to begin our lives anew,” Weidenfeld said. “It is a debt I believed I could never repay, but the time has come to try.”
To this end, Weidenfeld launched Operation Safe Haven nearly a year ago to help fund the rescue of Christian families from Islamic State terrorists in Syria and Iraq. The project supports the work of the Christian charity Barnabas Fund, which helps Syrian Christians leave the country. Operation Safe Haven has already found shelter for some in Poland, and it expects the Czech Republic to start taking in others in early 2016.
“As a refugee myself, I know that every life spared, every life lived happily and freely, is valuable,” Weidenfeld said. “God knows, one day when IS is defeated, perhaps Syria’s Christians will be able to go home and lead carefree Christian lives. Perhaps they will stay in their safe haven as I did. That is tomorrow’s question. Today they must leave their homeland as surely as I had to board that sleeper to Zurich.”