LONDON (Christian Examiner) -- Forty-two Syrian Christian families arrived safely in Warsaw, Poland last week thanks to Jewish Holocaust survivor Lord George Weidenfeld who financed the rescue mission at a cost of approximately $390,000.
"We owe a debt of gratitude. In the 1930s thousands of Jews, mainly women and children, were helped by Christians who took enormous personal risks to save them from certain death.
Weidenfeld plans to support the 149 refugees for 12–18 months as they settle in their new homes, and he intends to fund more rescue missions.
"The primary objective is to bring the Christians to safe havens. 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," the 95-year-old Weidenfeld said.
Syria's Christian population has been ravaged by the country's civil war which has displaced more than 700,000 from their homes and by ISIS terrorists who have kidnapped, raped, and murdered several hundred Christians.
Weidenfeld's personal experiences as a youth motivate his actions.
"We owe a debt of gratitude," he told The Times of Israel. "In the 1930s thousands of Jews, mainly women and children, were helped by Christians who took enormous personal risks to save them from certain death."
Weidenfeld was one of those helped. In 1938, he escaped Vienna the day before Nazi Germany annexed Austria. Plymouth Brethren in England assisted the 19-year-old Weidenfeld upon his arrival in Britain. Ten years later, he founded the Weidenfeld and Nicolson publishing business and became a lifetime member of the British House of Peers in 1976.
Believing he had a debt to repay for the help he received from those Christians, Weidenfeld established the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund.
"We have been deeply moved by the plight of Christians in conflict-torn Middle East countries, and we are supporting the transfer of Christian families to safe havens where they can lead normal lives," he told The Times of Israel.
Last week's rescue mission, conducted secretly for security reasons, was a multi-agency effort involving the British UK Jewish National Fund, the Barnabas Fund's Operation Safe Haven, and the Warsaw-based Esther Foundation.
The United States is one of several countries that has refused to participate in Weidenfeld's program in a similar manner the country also refused to assist Jewish refugees during the early part of World War II, according to Breaking Israel News.
Eastern European nations such as Poland are providing refuge for the evacuees, and the Barnabas Fund is discussing similar rescue projects with other central and eastern European nations.
Sir Charles Hoare, who has advised the Barnabas Fund in their efforts, described the need: "The Christian community in the Middle East is facing its greatest crisis. The homes of Christians are being demolished by this terrible conflict. They have nowhere to go unless we open our doors to them in their hour of need."
Weidenfeld hopes his ongoing efforts will imitate those of Sir Nicholas Winton, an Anglican whose philanthropic efforts saved 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia in the days leading up to World War II.
Winton, who died earlier this month at age 106, was a participant in a larger rescue effort known as Kindertransport in which Britain's Movement for the Care of Children from Germany coordinated the efforts of several Christians denominations and Jews to lead some 10,000 children, 7,500 of whom were Jewish, from Nazi-occupied territory to Britain between 1938-1940.