Prague re-creation for the JC Feb 2019
In mid-August 1945, hundreds of young Jews, survivors of the Nazi Holocaust, posed for three remarkable photographs in front of an iconic memorial in the centre of Prague.
Those standing in front of the Jan Hus memorial in Prague’s Old Town Square were to become known as The Boys, and the photographs of them were taken just before they boarded Royal Air Force transport planes and a new life in Britain. Ten Stirling Aircraft of the RAF’s 196 Squadron flew on August 14 from Prague to Crosby on Eden, near the Lake District, with the first batch of children and their adult escorts.
In May, under the auspices of the 45 Aid Society, some of those in the original pictures — and scores of their descendants, children, grand-children and great-grandchildren — will once again gather in Prague, to re-create the historic pictures.
After the war ended, Britain agreed to take in 1,000 orphaned child survivors of the concentration camps. Only 732 could be found — mainly Polish, Hungarian and Czech children — some of whom were liberated from the Czech camp, Theresienstadt. The young Jews, ranging in age from toddlers to teenagers, were flown to special hostels set up across the UK for rehabilitation and recovery.
The group, which became known as The Boys, set up the 45 Aid Society in 1963 to raise money for charitable causes and to give back to society.
Now the 45 Aid’s Second and Third Generation, the children and grandchildren of the original Boys, have organised a weekend trip to Prague to celebrate the contribution the young orphans made to British society.
To date around 200 people — including five survivors — have signed up for the event. They will be joined in Prague by ambassadors to the Czech Republic from Germany, Israel and Britain.
Sam Laskier, who now lives in Manchester, is in one of the original pictures, and will travel to Prague with a large family contingent. But not every one of The Boys was photographed — the most well-known, Sir Ben Helfgott, is not in any of the three pictures.
Events over the weekend include a visit to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Many of The Boys were finally liberated at Theresienstadt and a memorial service will be held there and kaddish recited by the son of one of the Boys, who is now a chazan in Vancouver.