‘Sir Nicholas helped me to get the last train out’


A pensioner has described how she escaped from Prague on the final Kindertransport train before the war began.

Hana Kleiner told her story this week after seeing our appeal to find Nicky's Children - some of the 669 youngsters brought to Britain by Sir Nicholas Winton from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939.

Ms Kleiner, 88, took part in the historic That's Life episode broadcast 27 years ago in which Sir Nicholas was reunited with the people he helped rescue.

Ms Kleiner recalled her happy childhood in the small town of Hradec Králové in Czechoslovakia where five per cent of the population were Jewish.

On July 31, 1939, three days after her 12th birthday, she and her sister Sonja, then 13, were placed on what turned out to be the last train out of Prague.

Once on the train, a couple put their small son in the girls' charge for the journey. Ms Kleiner explained: "We were preoccupied with this little boy. He cried and cried, and we couldn't get him to stop. We couldn't comfort him. There were even babies on these trains."

After arriving in England the sisters were sent to Boston, Lincolnshire, and were given places in a local school.

"It was very fortunate," she explained. "Really, the motivation from my parents had been the fact that they realised there would be discrimination and they knew that German-Jewish children wouldn't be allowed in any schools anymore."

Later, Ms Kleiner married and she and husband, Cedric, moved to Edgware, north-west London.

Sonja died in 1957, aged 31, but earlier this year Ms Kleiner had a moving reunion with the little boy they had cared for on the train.

He now lives in Vancouver, Canada, but joined Ms Kleiner to visit Sir Nicholas at his home in Maidenhead before his death earlier this year.

"Sir Nicholas was a very special person," she explained. "Very modest, he stood for no nonsense. He was very forthright and wise."

● Many more of Nicky's Children are still out there. Ahead of next month's Holocaust Memorial Day the JC would like to contact them. We want to locate as many of those saved by Sir Nicholas as we can. In the week of HMD, we will then bring That's Life up to date - with the most comprehensive listing of "Nicky's Children" so far.

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