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Lord Weidenfeld, Jewish peer who funded operation to rescue Christians from ISIS, has died

Lord Weidenfeld

Lord Weidenfeld, who fled the Nazis as a refugee and in turned helped Christians escape ISIS, has died.

The 96-year-old founded the Weidenfeld & Nicolson publishing house in 1949, publishing authors such as Isaiah Berlin and Vladimir Nabokov, the company later becoming part of Hachette UK. Later he also published the memoirs of St John Paul II.

George Weidenfeld was born in Austria in 1919 to a Jewish family and fled to Britain following the Anschluss, working for the BBC. Knighted in 1969, he was created a life peer in 1976 and was involved in philanthropic activities throughout his life.

Last year Lord Weidenfeld funded a scheme, Operation Safe Havens, which aims to help thousands of Syrian Christians fleeing violence at the hands of ISIS.

In July last year, The first phase of Operation Safe Havens, organised by the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund, saw 150 people flown by privately-chartered plane from Syria to Poland last Friday with the permission of the Polish government and Syria’s Assad regime.

Speaking to The Times, he said: “I had a debt to repay. It applies to so many young people who were on the Kinderstransports. It was Quakers and other Christian denominations who brought those children to England. It was very high-minded operation and we Jews should also be thankful and do something for the endangered Christians.

“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.”