As many of you know, my parents are here visiting me (or should I say, visiting Toby). In what has become one of my parent’s rituals, at least once during their almost yearly visits, we meet with my dad’s “aunt” Hilda Cohen in Golders Green (she is actually my dad’s mother’s cousin). She is an amazing woman of 86 years, originally from Germany.
The story of how she arrived in this country and thrived, is nothing short of a miracle. Hilda and her sister Trudy barely escaped Germany in 1938, on the Kindertransport. Their brother was to have joined them, but at the last moment, her parents took him off the train as they could not bear the thought of all their children living alone in the UK. That sealed his fate as he, together with his parents, perished in the Holocaust. Hilda and Trudy however made it to England. Hilda settled in Cardiff where she practiced medicine and was also a city councillor for many years until she retired and moved to Golders Green.
What is most amazing to me, every time we go and visit Hilda, is not the incredible amount of descendants Hilda and her sister Trudy have (well over 100), but the zest for life she still has, picking up Toby, reliving events of her past, discussing details of her medical career, or on this visit, identifying an anonymous family picture from about 90 years ago (it turned out to be my great-great grandparents).
In a world seemingly overrun with hatred and vehemence, it is very easy to lose faith in humanity because of the senseless violence we inflict on one another. But, every time I meet my “aunt” Hilda, my faith is restored. It is restored because of men like Sir Nicholas Winton, who was one of the principle organisers of the kindertransport. In a very real sense, I owe my family’s existence to him. To those that questioned God’s existence during that horrific period of history, I would respond with examples such as Sir Nicholas Winton, truly a Tzadik in our times. His passing this week is another sad reminder that some of the heroes of that generation are slipping away, their memories to be confined to books and our retelling.
Let us do our part, not just in remembering those heroes, but following in their footsteps and living by their example.
May the soul of Sir Nicholas Winton be bound up in an eternal embrace with the Almighty, and may his memory always be for a blessing and inspiration to us all.