This is a story about a guy who took a two week vacation and ended up with 15,000 children being indebted to him for their lives. It is another one of those amazing World War Two stories. This quiet hero is 104 years old now and admits that he forged documents and did illegal things in order to save 659 Jewish children from death in NAZI Germany. Years later since then he has been knighted in England and received countless awards for his bravery and ingenuity. You will not recognize his name because he has spent the last 50 years of his life living quietly and looking forward not bragging about his past.
His life is a humanitarian story about a young British guy named Nicholas Winton who went to Prague in 1938 when Europe was on the brink of war. At the time in Germany, violence against the Jews was increasing. What is most interesting about this story is that this guy was not necessarily very political. He made a good living as a stockbroker and just seemed to notice the injustice and wanted to do something to help. I wish an old movie starring Cary Grant was made about this incredible story. I wish more quiet heroes were made famous instead of the monsters who are stealing the Nigerian women being made famous.
It was the infamous Munich Agreement that paved the way for Hitler’s armies to march unopposed into Czechoslovakia. What do you do if you are just a young man making a living for yourself in political times like those? We have this monster Putin currently taking over the Ukraine. Should we be watching silently? In London Nicholas Winton had been following the events and knew refugees fleeing the Nazis were not having much success. What is strange is that for almost 50 years he hardly told anyone about what he had accomplished. Modest heroes are also hard to find these days. For 50 years the children knew nothing about who had saved them or how.
He was 29 years old at the time and knew that people couldn’t get out and were desperate to save the children. He saw that immigration was not an option for these people. In Jerusalem there is a memorial to victims of the holocaust that keeps very good records of what happened to people during this time. They know that Nicholas set up shop in a hotel in Prague. There without any experience in immigration he became part of a small organization with only one aim which was to get as many kids out of that country as quickly as possible.
By the time he returned to London, he had a list of hundreds of children and tried to convince British authorities to take him seriously. He did it by taking stationary from an established organization called The British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia and added Children’s Section there by making himself Chairman. Who would have the guts to do something like that? The Children’s Section operated from a tiny office in Central London. His mother was in charge and the staff were all volunteers. During the day he worked as a stockbroker, in the evenings he wrestled with the British bureaucracy. He tried to approach America to take some of the children, but the Americans wouldn’t take any of them.
Nicholas Winton had written President Roosevelt requesting America to take in children and a minor official at the U.S. embassy in London wrote back that the United States was unable to help. Imagine how many more children could have been saved if he got permission from the United States. He managed to get them to accept the children but only if Winton found families willing to take them in. So he circulated the children’s photos to advertise them. Even after he was able to find a family who wanted the child, the British government was slow in issuing the proper documents. Nicholas started having them forged as well. What a gutsy guy
He also spread a little bit of money around to bribe people to look the other way.
So now he is involved in blackmail and forgery to save the children. What risks he was taking that he just didn’t have to do? The humanitarian spirit in people is so important in life no matter what risk you do to yourself. Today he looks back without remorse for his treachery being able to realize he saved a lot of kids from death. By 1939 Hitler’s plans to cleanse Europe of the Jews was in full force. The children were being told by Nicholas that someday they would be reunited with their parents even though the slaughter of adults had already begun.
How did the parents even have the strength to entrust their children with someone they didn’t even know? Over the spring and summer of 1939, seven trains carried over 600 children through the heart of NAZI Germany to Holland where they took a ferry to the English Coast. From there they took a train to London. 90,000 adults were killed and no children were ever reunited with their parents. The names of every Czechoslovakian Jewish person murdered in the Holocaust is painted on walls in a Prague synagogue. Over 70,000 names.
During the war Nicholas volunteered for an ambulance unit for the Red Cross. But who Then he trained pilots of all things for the Air Force. Got married and raised a family, earned a comfortable living and for 50 years he hardly told anyone of his boldness in saving children. In 1988 the BBC learned about Winton’s daringness and located an audience filmed with now adults of the children he saved. The moderator asked if anyone in the audience owes their life to Nicholas Winton to please stand up. Everyone stood up. He cried that evening tears of joy since he was not aware that the evening was all about him.
We can all use a bit of modesty and just be there, do it and get it done mentality since there are always other things to accomplish. For the last 50 years, he has been helping mentally handicapped people and building homes for the elderly. Does he even know he’s 104 years old and is considered the super elderly? I don’t think so he doesn’t have time for that. In 2003 Winton was knighted and became Sir Nicholas Winton. In the Czech Republic he has become a national hero and was celebrated in a documentary called Nickie’s now some of the children even have great grandchildren. All thanks to Sir Nick.