Chiswick Resident Features In New Year's Honour's List
Uri Winterstein awarded for services to Holocaust Education
Chiswick resident Uri Stefan Winterstein, aged 76, has been honoured with a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year's Honours List, for services to Holocaust Education and Awareness.
Uri was born in Bratislava, Slovakia in October 1943. When he was only a month old, his parents put him in the care of a non-Jewish woman, as they believed they would have to go into hiding, and he was not reunited with his family until after the war, by which time many of them had died in concentration camps.
Uri had a difficult time as a baby as he was neglected by the woman and received little attention. When he was reunited with his family at the end of the war, aged 19 months old, he could not walk or talk at all and ate only a roll dipped in coffee, the food he had eaten during his stay with the woman.
Uri’s sister was sent to the infamous Terezin (in German, Theresienstadt) concentration camp near the Polish border where she was one of only 150 children, out of the 15,000 deported, to survive. In all, nine of his immediate family were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp where they were murdered.
His parents were both lawyers but his father’s main passion was the welfare of the Jewish community and he was very active in Jewish affairs from his university days to the end of his life.
During the War, Uri’s father was a member of an underground movement known as the Working Group, whose biggest single achievement was to halt the deportation of Jews from Slovakia for almost two years (from October 1942 to late September 1944). They achieved this by bribing key SS officers and government officials.
In autumn 1944, Uri's father was deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp in what is today the Czech Republic. His mother and sister managed to evade being deported as well that day, and went into hiding underground. However, they were eventually caught and also sent to Theresienstadt.
After the war, life returned to a semblance of normality. Following the takeover of Czechoslovakia by the Communists in 1948, his family left the country and ended up in Brazil, where Uri grew up.
Uri’s parents tried to protect him by not dwelling on the past but focusing on the future, and he thought that he had escaped any trauma. However, when about 15 years ago he was asked to do a reading at a Holocaust Memorial event, he broke down in the middle of the reading and wept uncontrollably. He then realised that his and his family's experiences during the Holocaust had affected him more than he had imagined.
Uri is married and has two daughters, a son and five grandchildren. He has lived in Chiswick for many years and has been speaking in schools for the Trust since 2013.
He regularly addresses community groups, religious organisations and local authorities about his Holocaust experience and where hatred, prejudice and antisemitism can lead.
He has spoken regularly at Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations and frequently speaks to university students in a bid to combat campus intolerance.
In the last five years alone over 15,000 adults and students have heard his testimony through the Holocaust Educational Trust's Outreach Programme ' an incredible personal achievement.
December 28, 2019