Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved hundreds of children from Nazis, turns 105
On the eve of the Second World War, a 29-year-old British stockbroker by the name of Nicholas Winton, went to extraordinary lengths to save 669 mostly Czech Jewish children by getting them out of Nazi-occupied Bohemia and Moravia. Learning of the plight of the children and their families, Winton organised the so-called kindertransport which left from Prague’s main station, travelling through Nazi Germany to Holland and finally to Great Britain, where the children were taken in by adoptive families. They were saved from the Holocaust but many never saw their real parents again. This Monday, Sir Nicholas turns 105; Radio Prague has more on the man and his remarkable life.
“Well I find it a bit embarrassing in a way: to me I am just an ordinary person.”
In a recent interview for CBS News’ 60 Minutes, Nicholas Winton described how he had heard of the plight of Czech Jews and their children ahead of the war and had no choice but to help, adding his lifelong motto was “If it’s not impossible, there must be a way of doing it”. Back in 1939, the British stockbroker did what was necessary to get as many children as he could out of the Protectorate, even modifying, 60 Minutes pointed out, the letterhead of an existing charity to include a children’s section, listing himself as its chairman. From there, the British authorities “had to accept him” and gave the green light. Reminded of the fact by 60 Minutes, Sir Nicholas grinned. The main thing, he made clear, was that it had been a success.
The first part of the motto “If it’s not impossible…” is the name of a book written by his daughter launched on the occasion of her father’s 105th birthday. The book aims to set the record straight on a number of matters, including why her father remained silent for so many years. Barbara Winton:
The book is being published only in English for now, but is likely to see a Czech translation. In Prague, a number of events are marking his 105th birthday, from an exhibition at Prague’s Kampa Park to a birthday bash on Tuesday at the city’s Lucerna ballroom. ON Monday, the Czech embassy in London marked the occasion and the Office of President Miloš Zeman issued a statement saying the president will award Sir Nicholas the highest state distinction in the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion, in October.