Monday 14 January 2008

Werner Theodore Barazetti - a Swiss hero of Kindertransporte

From The Times' obituary of 9 Oct. 2000:
"A retiring hero of the struggle against Nazism, whose story came to light only ten years ago, Bill Barazetti helped thousands of victims of discrimination to get out of prewar Germany. In a Schindler-style operation carried out in conjunction with a British stockbroker, Nicholas Winton, he also played a major part in organising the escape of children from German-occupied Prague in the spring and summer months of 1939 before war broke out. Between May and July that year three trainloads of mainly Jewish children - the Kindertransporte - left the city and, thanks to a complicated system of false identity papers engineered by Barazetti, succeeded in reaching London via Holland.
Werner Theodore Barazetti, as he was born, was the son of a Swiss Professor of French at Heidelberg University. His family were well connected. ...
As a 19-year-old, Barazetti was studying law at Hamburg University in 1933, when he saw Hitler’s Nazi thugs beat up Jewish, socialist and communist students and academics in the university precinct. His protests to the Dean - also Jewish - drew the reply: "We are the silent majority."
… in Prague he worked with church-based charities to help to channel the flood of refugees into Czechoslovakia, many from post-Anschluss Austria, towards Britain and Scandinavia. Between 50,000 and 70,000 people were helped to escape by these organisations.
So it was only natural that when a British stockbroker, Nicholas Winton, decided, after a winter skiing holiday in the Czech mountains, that children were an urgent priority for evacuation, Barazetti was recommended as a partner in the enterprise. Winton returned to England where he was engaged in arranging for visas, homes and £50-a-head sponsors for each child. Barazetti made all the arrangements at the Prague end. He organised the trains, interviewed the families and sent Winton the details and photographs of each child.
His rescue work was nearly halted after the Gestapo caught him again. This time he was released only through the intervention of an uncle, a colonel in the Swiss Army, who insisted that he stop working for Czech Intelligence and move to Switzerland. …
Returning to Prague - which was occupied by the Germans after March 1939 - in disguise and with a new identity, he evaded capture by spending every night in the home of a different family from among those of the 664 children for whom he had organised an exit. Because the English visas were often slow to come through, Barazetti got a Jewish printer in Prague to produce forged papers to show to the German authorities. By the time the first train reached Holland, the genuine visas were ready to hand out to the children on the train. Barazetti managed to organise the return to Prague of the forged documents for re-use.
Three trains full of children left Prague that spring and sunmmer. A fourth was ready to go on the eve of war - but it never reached Holland and was not heard of again. …
In the diaries, copies of which are now held by the Jerusalem Holocaust memorial institute, Yad Vashem, Winton noted that he had left the entire Prague Kindertransport operation to Barazetti. Finally, in 1993 Yad Vashem honoured Barazetti as one of the Righteous among the Gentiles."
Via: Snoopy at Simply Jews

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Barazetti did not run Winton's kinertransport operation. It was Trevor Chadwick. It is not known how this fabrication, which was perpetuated in Barazetti's Times obituary came about. The true story is well told in Vera Gissing's Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation (see pp. 91-106)and other books. Talking of Chadwick, Winton himself said, "No one else could have doen it."