HEARTFELT GRATITUDE: Letter from Rav Weiss to Sir Winton Surfaces Following his Passing
By: Yehuda Alter
In our tribute to Rav Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss, zt”l, Ga’avad Eidah Hacharedis Yerushalayim, we noted his rescue as a child from his native Czechoslovakia by Sir Nicholas Winton, a British Jew who evacuated 669 children from the clutches of the Nazis.
These heroic actions earned him the moniker “the British Schindler.”
His rescues were daring, and entailed great risk—and once the children were in England, he had to find homes and sponsors for them.
His heroism went unrecognized for close to half a century, until his wife gave the ledger—in which he had meticulously transcribed each of his rescues—to a journalist, who tracked down, and brought together hundreds of them for a surprise gathering in Sir Winton’s honor.
When Rav Weiss learned the identity of his savior, he made plans to reunite with him in the winter of 2015 to express his gratitude in person. But the 106-year-old Nicholas died before the meeting could take place.
Following his passing, Rav Weiss penned a letter to his family, which read:
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Nicholas Winton, the person who risked his own life, selflessly working and succeeding to save me and a large number of others. I want to share my condolences with you. May Sir Winton rest in peace, and may his noble, courageous, selfless memory stay with us forever and be of comfort to you.
“At a time of darkness and bloodshed, very few had the strength to overcome the fear, threats, and violence to stand up for humanity. Your father is of that tiny league, of a handful of people who had the strong moral conviction and determination to save hundreds and thousands from being slaughtered. I am in awe of his noble character. Not only did he risk everything to save lives, but he didn’t even expect any credit for it. For decades, I didn’t know who my rescuer was, until the secret was revealed by others.
“I, and my entire family of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are alive, would not be here if not for your great father. While he is no longer physically with us, his memory lives on with those who are among the living thanks to him.”
With the passing of the Ga’avad of Yerushalayim, we have lost a great Torah leader from another era who never forgot the kindness of the shliach to snatch him from the claws of a terrible fate.