Lord Weidenfeld has died at the age of 96. Born in Vienna, Austria in 1919, Weidenfeld fled the Nazis to become a British citizen and one of the most influential figures in Britain’s Jewish community.
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 BBC and within ten years had co-founded the publishing firm Weidenfeld & Nicholson, where he became known as a ‘Publishing Genius’.
In 1949, Weidenfeld spent a year as the political adviser and was Chief of Cabinet for Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel.
In his later years Lord Weidenfeld became well known for his philanthropy, working with Jewish and Israeli charities. Last year we reported on his work helping Christians in war-torn Syria. Explaining that it was Christians who helped him when he first arrived in Britain, he told the BBC last October, “I feel very grateful to Christians who saved my life when I had to leave Nazi Austria as a 19-year-old, and a family of evangelical Christians took me in as a son.”
Lord Weidenfeld was not only helped by Christians personally during that time, but also recognised how Christians had come to aid of the Jewish people during some of the most dreadful days in history.
“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,” he said.
Last year Lord Weidenfeld was “deeply moved” by the plight of Christians in conflict-torn Middle East and set up a project, Operation Safe Haven, which helps fleeing Christians to transfer to safe havens. The initiative aims to rescue 20,000 Christians from Syria and give them a new home in other countries.
Lord Weidenfeld became a British citizen in 1947, was knighted in 1969 and was created a life peer on 25 June 1976, taking the title Baron Weidenfeld, of Chelsea in the County of Greater London. In 2011 he was appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 2011 New Year Honours for public service.
Christians United for Israel UK