Each year, St. Thomas Aquinas hosts a “Facing History and Ourselves” guest speaker. The program’s mission is to engage students in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more human and informed citizenry. The hope is that by educating students on the historical development of the Holocaust, students will make the connection between history and their own moral choices in their lives.
Today, the St. Thomas Aquinas community was graced by a very special speaker- Ms. Eva Fleischmann Paddock, Holocaust survivor.
Ms. Paddock was born in Czechoslovakia in 1935. In July 1939, Eva and her sister Milena were sent to safety in England on the last Kindertransport train to leave Prague. The Czech kindertransports were masterminded and organized by Nicholas Winton, a young British banker. Eva is one of the fortunate children whose parents both escaped the Nazi invasion and the family was reunited in 1940.
In her presentation to students, faculty and staff, Ms. Paddock relayed the story of her journey (and her family’s separate journeys) out of Czechoslovakia to Norway and eventually to England. Through the details, our audience learned of several “altruists” who helped the Fleischmann family escape and begin a new life. The most significant individual was certainly Sir Nicholas Winton. All in all, he organized the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia on the eve of WWII. He solicited philanthropists to donate money to the cause, found homes for the children, and arranged for their safe passage to Britain. Years later, Ms. Paddock reconnect with Sir Nicholas to share their stories of a dangerous era in history.
“Why do you share (and continue to share) your story?” prompted STA theology teacher, Mr. Patrick McCafferty.
“Because there are very few of us still alive to tell what happened,” responded Ms. Paddock. “One day there will be no one left to tell it. And people like to rewrite history. I share my story so that you can hear the truth.”
Thank you, Ms. Paddock, for telling and retelling your story so that the world will never forget… and never re-write a similar script.