In A Nutshell
In 1938, 19-year-old George Weidenfeld boarded the train from his hometown of Vienna for the last time. A Jewish teenager, Weidenfeld was fleeing from the expanding Nazi state, with its horrors of shootings, ghettos, and death camps. Granted an escape route thanks to the efforts of the Quakers and Plymouth Brethren, Weidenfeld never forgot the debt he owed Christianity. Fast-forward to 2015, and George (now Lord) Weidenfeld finally got a chance to repay that debt, setting up a fund specifically to save Christians fleeing the genocidal wrath of ISIS.
The Whole Bushel
On December 29, 2014, a bus carrying seven Coptic Christians back to Egypt from Libya was hijacked by ISIS fighters. A few days later, a second group of Christians were seized from a worker’s lodge. In February this year, both groups were led down onto a Libyan beach by men claiming to represent the Islamic State. There, they were bludgeoned and beheaded; yet more victims of ISIS’s genocidal campaign against the region’s minorities.
Many thousands of miles away in the UK, 95-year-old Lord Weidenfeld was monitoring stories just like this with growing disgust. Born in 1919 to an Austrian Jewish family, he knew all about persecution. When Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, he was one of many Jews to flee to Britain, escaping the horrors of the pogroms and camps. As a teenager with no savings, his escape was only possible thanks to the efforts of groups like the Quakers and Plymouth Brethren. In later life, Lord Weidenfeld would become adamant that without the Christians, he’d never have survived the Holocaust.
As the stories of ISIS atrocities piled on, Lord Weidenfeld decided the time had come to repay his debt. Using the vast wealth built up from his publishing empire, he chartered a private plane and had it flown to Syria in summer 2015. There, from the borderlands of ISIS’s expanding territory, his men managed to rescue 150 Christians, spiriting them away to the safety of Europe.
It was just the start of Lord Weidenfeld’s audacious plan. As Syria’s refugees grew into a tsunami of humanity, the British peer worked out a plan to rescue 2,000 of them. Each would be flown to Europe and provided with new homes and 12–18 months of financial support.
At the time of writing, Lord Weidenfeld’s plan is still in operation. Although he’s drawn criticism for not extending his help to Iraq’s persecuted Yazidi minority, his planes have already helped whole families escape the carnage. Over 70 years after Christians helped a penniless Jewish kid flee unimaginable horrors, Lord Weidenfeld is managing to repay his debt 100 times over.
Show Me The Proof
The Independent: Jewish peer who fled Nazis is rescuing Christians fleeing Isis to repay ‘debt’
Tablet: Holocaust Survivor Lord Weidenfeld Sets Up Fund To Rescue Christian Refugees
Time: Christians Mourn Their Relatives Beheaded by ISIS