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Children who escaped Nazis retrace 1939 journey to Britain

Prague — A steam train carrying 22 of the 669 Jewish children who escaped the Holocaust thanks to a British man dubbed the "English Schindler" left Prague on Tuesday on a four-day journey to mark the 70th anniversary of the evacuations.

The train will trace its 1939 route via Germany and the Netherlands to London where it will be met by Nicholas Winton, now aged 100, the man who organised the children’s safe passage out of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

"I feel a little sentimental and a little sad, because that was the last time I saw my mum," said Hana Franklova, one of the former evacuees who is making the trip, as she set off.

Between March and September 1939, Winton saved the nearly 700 children from almost certain death by arranging for them to be hosted by British families, then negotiating their departure with the Nazis — a mission many had thought impossible.

Winton has been called the "English Schindler," in reference to Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Polish Jews and whose actions were immortalised in Steven Spielberg’s film "Schindler’s List."

Winton’s story only came to light by chance 50 years later when his wife found papers relating to it in a battered briefcase in his attic.

"We had no idea (about Winton)," added Franklova, who was eight-years-old when she left Prague. She spent the war in Stoke-on-Trent in central England.

The commemorative train journey is one of a string of Czech tributes to the modest Englishman including a statue, unveiled on Tuesday, at Prague’s main railway station from where the children set off.

The train is carrying 174 people including 22 survivors of the original journeys and 64 family members. A further five so-called Winton children will join the train at Harwich, a port town on England’s east coast.