Nicholas Winton is not only an unknown hero, but a reluctant one. A London stockbroker, he flew to Prague in 1938 and, seeing the many Jewish refugees (and prescient about what would happen to Europe’s Jews under the Nazis), he went to work organizing a series of railroad trains to evacuate Jewish children to Britain, one of the few countries that would accept them. Winton saved 669 lives in seven trainloads, but on Sept. 1, 1939, the day Germany invaded Poland, the trains stopped. The 669 children lived, but became orphans, as nearly all their parents died in the concentration camps.
Here’s Winton with one of his beneficiaries:
Winton, whose effort was hercuclean—involving bribes, donations, and complicated paperwork—never spoke of his deed after the war. Indeed, even his wife didn’t know about it until fifty years after the war, when she found a scrapbook in the attic. Eventually his deeds were recognized (though he always minimized his role), and he received many accolades, including, in 2003, a knighthood.
According to the New York Times, Winton died Wednesday at the age of 106. Do read the Times article; it’s a fantastic tale, and you’ll be astounded at how humble this man was. He’s my kind of hero: one who doesn’t boast of his accomplishments.
I learned about Winton when he appeared in a segment on the only television show I watch, Sixty Minutes. Do watch that 15-minute segment below; it will bring tears to your eyes when you see him meet up again, after many years, with some of the children he saved—now old people.
How many of us can claim to have done nearly as much good in this world?
Did that make your day?