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ČT to broadcast documentary on rescue of Czech Jewish children

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Prague, Jan 23 (CTK) – The public broadcaster Czech Television (CT) will broadcast a documentary on a so far ignored mission rescuing roughly 100 Jewish children before the Nazi rule at the end of January, film director Jiri Frantisek Potuznik told journalists on Tuesday.

It was an air bridge from Czechoslovakia to Britain, organised by the group Barbican that wanted to spread Christianity among Jews.

Its mission preceded that of Sir Nicholas Winton who saved over 600 Czech and Slovak children of Jewish origin just before World War Two.

The documentary entitled “Barbican: A Forgotten Mission” will be screened on the CT2 programme on January 30.

The authors of the documentary found a trace of the air bridge thanks to a photo of the Czech News Agency (CTK) featuring one of the Jewish boys along with a Dutch pilot and Winton.

The photo is dated January 1939, but Winton only organised the trains with the children to Britain in August and September 1939.

The authors of the documentary visited him and learnt that the photo is not from a railway station, but from an airport.

“He told us that it was really a January photo and that he thinks the air bridge was organised by the Swedish Red Cross, with Sweden as the final destination,” Potuznik said.

At that time, Winton was acquainting himself with the people who wanted to help the Jews, but he himself did not organise anything yet.

The documentary authors eventually learnt from other sources that the children were flown to London.

The 50-minute film sums up a four-year search into the circumstances of this rescue mission.

In all, there were three flights by KLM. Each of them flew roughly 30 children from Prague, but there were not only Czechoslovak Jews, but also some from the neighbouring countries, especially from Germany and Austria.

The first plane left Czechoslovakia on January 12, 1939 and the last on March 8.

In London, the children were expected by Protestant priest of Jewish origin Isaac Davidson who headed Barbican.

“He established contact with Jewish families in Czechoslovakia, helping them for three months after the Munich Agreement (September 1938) and two months after the occupation of Czechoslovakia (on March 15, 1939) he left Prague,” Potuznik said.

There was a condition of the parents’ agreeing with their children being brought up as Christians.

So far, the mission has been largely ignored.

Potuznik said it was due to the disappearance of all records from the Prague airport after the arrival of Nazis, while Barbican ceased to exist.

“In its stead, a new organisation, now called Christian Witness to Israel, appeared. In its archives we found boxes described as Barbican Mission, but it itself has never studied it,” Potuznik said.

CT will broadcast the documentary in connection with the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. In the following days, there will be also other documentaries and films about the Holocaust.

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