A memorial honoring the escape of mostly Jewish children from the Nazis, organized by Sir Nicholas Winton, has been damaged in an apparently carefully planned attack.
The Valediction Memorial at Prague’s main railway station – representing trains used to transport 669 children from Prague to Britain – was left with a long crack across the length of a symbolic window pane.
The vandalism appeared to be aimed at disfiguring the shrine’s most evocative feature, a train window engraved with handprints depicting adults and children forced to bid farewell in heartbreaking circumstances.
Jan Hunat, a Czech engraver who designed the engraved glass, said he believed it was struck from behind with a hammer after being carefully dislodged from its wooden frame with a chisel or screwdriver.
Police are investigating, but have so far made no arrests.
The memorial was unveiled in 2017 in recognition of the sacrifice of parents who sent their children to safety knowing they would probably never see them again after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia.
Most of the children saved by Winton, who arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport and were taken in by British foster families, never saw their parents again.
Winton died in 2015 at the age of 106.
Winton, the baptized son of Jewish parents, was a 29-year-old stockbroker when he arrived in Prague in December 1938. He was planning to go on a skiing holiday in Switzerland but changed his plans when he heard about the refugee crisis in Czechoslovakia, which had just been occupied by the Nazis.
Winton’s heroism was unremarked until the 1980s when his wife found evidence of the rescues. The discovery led to a reunion with some of the children and a documentary.
The Schindler reference is to the German industrialist Oskar Schindler, who is credited with saving some 1,200 Jews in the Holocaust. His story was made into an Academy Award-winning film, “Schindler’s List.”