Jewish Labour peer and former refugee Lord Dubs fights back tears as he praises film about Kindertransport hero who brought him to Britain

Posted on February 3, 2024

Labour peer who fled to Britain on the Kindertransport scheme during the Second World War fought back tears as he made an emotional address to Parliament to commemorate the Holocaust.

Lord Dubs became emotional as he recalled his experience of travelling to the UK from Czechoslovakia aged six.

While remembering Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued hundreds of children from the Nazis, he told the Lords it was ‘difficult’ for him to talk about.

Lord Dubs said there should be ‘better ways’ of commemorating the Holocaust following the recent ‘appalling outburst of anti-Semitism’.

The refugee campaigner also revealed he had received a number of abusive messages because of his public profile.

Lord Alf Dubs was one of thousands of child refugees saved from the Nazis under the Kindertransport project and brought to Britain in the late 1930s.

The Prague-born peer, whose father was Jewish, told the House of Lords: ‘I find this an emotional day for me.’

He added: ‘It is possibly appropriate just to reflect on the film that has come out recently about Nicky Winton, the person who saved 669 Kindertransport children from the Holocaust.

‘And it was a film which drove me to tears, I’m sorry my Lords.’

After pausing, he said: ‘And I watched the film and I thought the actor who played Nicky Winton got his part perfectly.

‘It was a very emotional film and I was asked to write a review of it and I found it difficult to judge it, other than in terms of the emotions that it of course generated.’

Lord Dubs continued: ‘Unfortunately, when we look at the world today we’re not learning lessons very quickly, we could learn them much better.

‘There’s been a deplorable, regrettable, appalling outburst of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in this country, and indeed the Germans will say it’s the same in their country.

‘I think we need to work out better ways of actually commemorating the event and making sure Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are swept away as best we can.

‘I’ve had, I think all of us in public life have had, a certain number of abusive messages and things, not just this week but over a period of time.

‘I won’t repeat some of them because it just encourages people to do more of that sort of thing, but some of them were, well, not very nice.’

Later in the session, Lord Pickles, the UK’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues, argued that ‘casual anti-Semitism’ is widespread across Britain.

The Conservative peer said: ‘Casual anti-Semitism is widespread in modern Britain and you only need to look every Saturday to see those … idiots marching alongside Jew-hating anti-Semites, giving them credibility and credence and inadvertently encourage them on to even greater depravity.’

Former Labour MP Lord Austin of Dudley, who quit the party under Jeremy Corbyn over anti-Semitism, also criticised the pro-Palestine marches.

He said: ‘I’m not saying of course, that everybody who joins those marches is a racist, I’m not saying that.

‘But if the only country you march against, the only country you protest against, just happens to be the only Jewish one, don’t tell me that you’re not an anti-Semite.’

During his speech, Lord Austin spoke of his father, who fled Czechoslovakia as a child when the Nazis invaded.

The non-affiliated peer said: ‘He arrived in the UK a few months I think before Lord Dubs, he arrived here actually only being able to speak three words of English, which were hot, cross and bun.

‘But he grew up to become the youngest grammar school headteacher in the country, he was honoured with an MBE for his work with education and charity.

‘And he brought up four children, of whom I’m the second