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Rudi’s recollections of a great escape

88 year old Rudi Wessely who was saved from Hitlers genocide by Nicholas Winton in 1939 when he was evacuated to Britain from Czechoslovakia here with some of the staff at Broomgrove

88 year old Rudi Wessely who was saved from Hitlers genocide by Nicholas Winton in 1939 when he was evacuated to Britain from Czechoslovakia here with some of the staff at Broomgrove

HIS is a story of a lucky escape many years ago.

And now, 74 years on, Rudi Wessely is sharing that story with fellow residents at a Sheffield nursing home.

Rudi, aged 88, was just 14 when he said goodbye to his parents and left Prague on a specially-commissioned train bound for England.

He was one of the 669 Jewish children rescued from German-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the outbreak of World War Two by Nicholas Winton, the man later dubbed the ‘British Schindler’.

Rudi never saw his mother and father again – they were murdered in Auschwitz like the majority of Czechoslovakian Jews he left behind.

Today Rudi lives at the Broomgrove Care Home in Ecclesall, where he has been enthralling fellow residents with his recollections of becoming one of ‘Winton’s children’.

It was just before Christmas 1938 when Winton decided to travel to Prague to help a friend who was involved in Jewish refugee work.

There he single-handedly established an organisation to aid children from Jewish families at risk from the Nazis.

Winton found homes for them in the UK and arranged for their safe passage on specially commissioned trains.

Rudi witnessed the invasion of the Nazis and Hitler’s appearance on the balcony of Prague Castle before he was one of those fortunate enough to find safety.

Those who tried to follow the very next day were not so lucky.

The train, which was due to leave on the day war broke out, never left Prague.

Instead the 250 children were forced by Hitler’s troops to disembark. Every one of them was to perish at the hands of the Nazis.

Rudi met Winton in later life and returned to Prague in 2003 in the company of TV personality Esther Rantzen who made a programme about him.

“Without Nicholas Winton, I wouldn’t be here talking to you now,” he explained to a hushed audience of Broomgrove residents.

He’d never been to the UK before 1939 and his only knowledge of British culture were taken from books like Little Lord Fauntleroy, he explained.

Rudi laughs now when he recalls: “I arrived in Britain wearing plus fours.”

When he came to Britain Rudi originally settled in Hull but quickly came to Sheffield to spend his working life in education.

Jill Wall, the home’s manager, said: “All residents and staff were visibly moved by Rudi’s story and we have to thank him for sharing it with us.

“His warmth and humour is already making him very popular and it’s a privilege to have him as part of our community.”

 

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