Seeing huge numbers of child refugees caught in dangerous situations as they flee terror and persecution in their homeland is “heartbreaking”, a man saved from the Nazis as a teenager has said.
Kurt Taussig came to the UK from Czechoslovakia aged 15 just before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Now aged 92, he said he is dismayed by the large-scale movement of people around the world.
While he said there cannot be a direct comparison between his situation and what is happening now, Mr Taussig described what he has seen as “vastly worse” than what he and others who came to Britain on the Kindertransport experienced almost 80 years ago.
Mr Taussig, who went on to join the RAF and later ran a business in London, said he counts himself lucky compared to refugees today.
“It is hard to put into words but what goes on now is vastly worse than what I experienced, which was just the beginning of the continental mess and concentration camps and so on,” the grandfather said. “The sheer numbers of children and women involved is heartbreaking. I do what I can but there’s a limit to how much one can help.
“This (people having to leave their homes) is happening all over the world, we’re talking about millions of children in the Middle East, in Asia – you can name so many places. It is tragic, what goes on. We were so lucky because our problem ended the moment we arrived in London. We were taken care of, people looked after us – we had a home immediately from the start. There is no comparison.”
While the situation in the late 1930s as the world descended into war is different to the fallout from various conflicts across the globe now, people appear to be failing to learn from past horrors, according to 84-year-old John Fieldsend.
“Modern history is now current affairs. In many ways it is history repeating itself as it has a habit of doing,” said Mr Fieldsend, who came to the UK aged seven on one of the trains arranged by Sir Nicholas Winton.
The retired Anglican minister, who was brought up by a Christian family after arriving in Britain and now considers himself “a Jew who believes in Jesus”, said sadly things have been allowed to get out of control.
“World War Two could have been stopped if the world had taken action some years earlier and the present Middle Eastern situation could have been nipped in the bud if decisive action had been taken five or 10 years ago. We always leave it too late before doing anything,” he said.
Mr Fieldsend said helping those who are just outside the borders of conflict zones is important if those countries are to be rebuilt in the future.
“One thing I have to say is that I think we ought to be doing more for the actual refugees on site. If we did more near where the things are happening, made the refugee camps more liveable in, there wouldn’t be quite so much need for people to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean,” he said.
“Every time large numbers of refugees come here it makes their home country even more devoid of good people so I think we should try and encourage people in camps nearby, like in Lebanon, to be ready to go back and pick up the pieces when possible.”
Picture: Kurt Taussig (second left) with his son Richard, grandson Matthew and BBC presenter and UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation board member Natasha Kaplinski. (Kurt Taussig/PA).