Arthur George Weidenfeld, a Jewish English Baron and Lord in the House of Peers, is financing the escape of thousands of Christians from ISIS occupied territory in Syria.
The English publisher, philanthropist and newspaper columnist who originally hails from Austria was a child who fled the country just before World War II. Weidenfeld has said publicly that he feels he has a debt to repay to the Christians who saved him.
Dubbing the project the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund, Weidenfeld has managed to save the lives of over 2,000 Syrian Christians, including 150 recent refugees who were flown to Poland last week. The project pays for the refugees to fly to a country that will provide them short term asylum, and finances their stay for 12-18 months.The organization also helps the refugees make more long term arrangements for their future abroad.
Weidenfeld went from being a penniless five-year-old who was clothed and fed by Quakers, Plymouth Brethren and other Christians before World War II, to a hugely successful publisher in England after the war. Following the establishment of Weidenfeld and Nicolson publishing business in 1948, he went on to become a lifetime Peer in 1976.
Weidenfeld says that he has “a debt to repay” and hopes that his mission will be as successful as the mission of the late Sir Nicholas Winton, who helped to organize the Kindertransports that brought over more than 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi occupied Europe to Britain before the war, thus saving their lives. Sir Winton passed away two weeks ago on July 1.
The program has come under sharp criticism from Muslim groups who complain that the Safe Havens Fund is only saving Christians. Weidenfeld responded by saying “I can’t save the world, but there is a very specific possibility on the Christian side. Let others do what they like for the Muslims.”
In a recent interview with The Times, Weidenfeld explained, “It was Quakers and other Christian denominations who brought those children to England. It was a very high-minded operation and we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians.”
Weidenfeld directly compared the brutality of the Nazis with that of ISIS. He told reporters that he considers ISIS to be even more savage. “ISIS is unprecedented in its primitive savagery compared with the more sophisticated Nazis…When it comes to pure lust for horror and sadism, they are unprecedented. There never was such scum as these people.”
Numerous countries, including the US, have refused to participate in the program in a similar fashion to their refusal to save Jewish refugees during the early years of World War II. However, Weidenfeld has found safe havens for the Christian refugees in Eastern European countries such as Poland who has in the past few years turned over a new leaf in dealing with refugees and people of other cultures and religions.
The Christian population in Syria has been devastated by the ongoing civil war and the advance of ISIS. Scores of Christians have already been brutally murdered by the terror group and over 700,000 have been forced to flee their homes due to the constant fighting that has crippled the country since 2011.