LONDON — On the eve of Nazi Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, 19-year-old George Weidenfeld escaped Vienna for the United Kingdom. He began work at the British Broadcasting Corporation and within ten years had co-founded the publishing firm Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

The former refugee, now Lord Weidenfeld, has long been associated with Jewish and Israeli charities. However, since he was helped by a Christian group, the Plymouth Brethren, when he first arrived in Britain, he says, it is time to repay this debt.

A partial payment came last week in the form of a poignant rescue of 42 Syrian Christian families, who are now safe in Warsaw.

“We have been deeply moved by the plight of Christians in conflict-torn Middle East countries, and we are supporting the transfer of Christian families to safe havens where they can lead normal lives,” Weidenfeld told The Times of Israel on Tuesday.

The rescue operation was conducted in partnership with the British UK Jewish National Fund, which made the decision to aid Weidenfeld at a board meeting just before Passover this year.

According to Michael Sinclair, vice chairman of JNF in Britain, the overture made by Jewish philanthropists Weidenfeld and Martin Green to the JNF was unusual but ultimately compelling. Martin Green heads the Euripides Foundation, which works for better relations between Jews and Christians.

“We viewed it as the right thing to do, to offer help,” Sinclair said. “We were mindful of those rare but special occasions when Christians reached out to Jews during the Second World War. People realized it was a really worthy cause.”

The honorable repayment of a debt from the Holocaust was a prime motivator for Weidenfeld.

“In the 1930s thousands of Jews, mainly women and children, were helped by Christians who took enormous personal risks to save them from certain death. We owe a debt of gratitude,” said Weidenfeld.

Read the full article at Times of Israel