This morning Matthew Cobb sent me a tweet that reminded me of this story—a story I’d known about but never mentioned. It’s about Nicholas Winton—now Sir Nicholas Winton—a British stockbroker who, on a visit to Czechoslovakia in 1938, managed to launch a rescue operation that ultimately saved 669 children, most of them Jewish, from the Holocaust. Rather than recount the details, just watch the “60 Minutes” clip below, the way I first learned about him. It was filmed when Winton was 104.
In 1988, the BBC, in a surprise event, reunited Winton with many of the children he had saved. Winton was a guest at a television show recounting his exploits, and suddenly the host asked if anybody whom Winton had saved was in the studio. The BBC had brought 24 of those children (80 were living in Britain) to the show, unbeknownst to Winton, and all of them stood up. It’s a wonderful and tear-inducing moment, and you can see it at 11:35 in this 15-minute clip.
I recommend that you watch it, as it will bolster your faith that there really are wonderful people out there:
I found this a deeply moving clip, especially knowing that the parents gave up their kids realizing that they’d probably never see them again—and they didn’t. Note that America wouldn’t take any of the children. Sound familiar?
Wikipedia adds this list of notable people saved by Winton, and recounts how many of them have been traced:
- Alf Dubs, Baron Dubs (born 1932), British Labour Party politician and former Member of Parliament
- Heini Halberstam (1926–2014), mathematician
- Renata Laxova (born 1931), pediatric geneticist
- Gerda Mayer (born 1927), poet
- Karel Reisz (1926–2002), filmmaker
- Joe Schlesinger (born 1928), Canadian television journalist and author
- Yitzchok Tuvia Weiss (born 1926), Chief Rabbi of the Edah HaChareidis in Jerusalem
Of the 669 children saved from the Holocaust through Winton’s efforts, more than 370 have never been traced. BBC News suggested in 2015 that they may not know the full story of how they survived the war.
Here’s a short interview of Winton by BBC’s HardTalk:
Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 2003, when he was 94, for or “services to humanity, in saving Jewish children from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia”. He lived to the ripe old age of 106, dying peacefully in 2015.