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3 Oct 2014
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Parents and Heroes

When Monica and Nick met through friends they soon discovered an unusual bond. Both have relatives who showed astonishing courage in rescuing people from the German holocaust...

Monica and Nick
Monica and Nick
Monica and Nick met on a blind date. Mutual friends introduced them on a 60's revival night and they hit it off straight away.

As they got to know each other they discovered not only that they are both from émigré families, but that their parents had taken huge risks
Vali Racz
Vali Racz
to save Jews and others at risk during the 1930's and 1940's.

This was something that both had only really come to fully understand in their thirties.

Nick's Dad, Nicholas Winton, was a stock broker in the UK, who was encouraged to go to the then Czechoslovakia to see what was happening in the refugee camps.
A rescued child with Nicholas
A rescued child with Nicholas

What he found was no support system to help the children under threat in Czechoslovakia. So he set one up. He rescued about 639 children, who were at risk from the incoming German Army.

Monica found out what her mum had done only when she visited Budapest in 1980.
Valiracz - Monica's mother - in costume
Vali Racz in costume
Vali Racz was a very successful singer - her sultry, glamorous voice and aura made her the 'Hungarian Marlene Dietrich' of theatre and films. There were a lot of Jews working in show business, and when the Nazis came into Hungary in the Spring of 1944, some of her friends asked her for help.

Like any self-respecting singer and movie star, Vali had a huge wardrobe in her bedroom, where her stage dresses were hung. A friend built a false back into it creating a hiding place for a few people, crammed together. In the event, six people came to live in Vali's basement. When the Gestapo searched the house, they hid - successfully - in the wardrobe.

Vali herself was interrogated for two weeks. In the end a friend managed to get her released, twenty-four hours before her fellow prisoners were all executed.

Nick knew as a child that helping child refugees was something that his Dad had done, but it didn't mean much to him.

Nicholas Winton with Vaslav Havel
Nicholas Winton with Vaslav Havel
Very few of the children had families left, and Nicholas had a trunk full of the documents with which he'd managed their escape. They were the children's only real link with the past. Nicholas wasn't sure what to do with the documents, and it was only when Dr Betty Maxwell (wife of the newspaper owner) showed an interest that he started to get publicity for what he'd done. His courage was recognised when he was presented with an award by Vaslav Hazel.

Vali Racz's courage has also been recognised at the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. Monica met some of the residents of the wardrobe there, including generations of a family who wouldn't have existed but for her mother's help.
Friends of Valiracz
Friends of Vali Racz



MORE INFORMATION

Two films, " All My Loved Ones" and more recently "The Power of Good" have been made by the Czech film maker Matej Minac about Nicholas Winton. This link records a recent trip Winton made to meet some of the children (now in their seventies) that he rescued.
Nicholas Winton report on Radio Prague

The Power of Good: A review of the film

Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation by Muriel Emanuel and Vera Gissing (with a forward by Esther Rantzen) is published by Vallentine Mitchell, ISBN: 085 303 42 57

Monica Porter has written about her mother's wartime experience. Deadly Carousel is published by Quartet,
ISBN 0 7043 27 538

Music from Racz Vali from the record: Csak Egy Nap A Vilag is on the Hungaroton Label,
LPM 16786.

If your parents are your heroes

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