Nicholas Winton’s ‘Most Emotional Moment’

Nicholas Winton, who died Wednesday at 106,1)http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/02/world/europe/nicholas-winton-is-dead-at-106-saved-children-from-the-holocaust.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news went 50 years without telling anyone about how he had rescued 669 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia.

Even after his anonymity ended in 1988, when his wife’s discovery of an old scrapbook in their attic set off a wave of public recognition, he never fully explained why he did it.

One especially poignant appearance came in 1988 on the BBC program2)http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-33350880 “That’s Life,” when for the first time, dozens of people who owed their lives to him assembled to thank him.

In the video, he dabs tears as a woman hugs him.

Then he is surprised to learn that the dozens of people seated around him were also children he had saved.

By Daniel Victor | July 1, 2015 | Source: nytimes.com "Nicholas Winton’s ‘Most Emotional Moment’ "

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/02/world/europe/nicholas-winton-is-dead-at-106-saved-children-from-the-holocaust.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news
2. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-33350880

Holocaust ‘hero’ Sir Nicholas Winton dies aged 106.

Sir Nicholas Winton, who organised the rescue of 669 children destined for Nazi concentration camps, has died aged 106.

Sir Nicholas, then a stockbroker, arranged for trains to carry Jewish children out of occupied Prague.

The prime minister described him as a “great man” and the chief rabbi praised his “exceptional courage”.

He died on the anniversary of the departure of a train in 19391)http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-30895961 carrying the largest number of children – 241.

His son-in-law Stephen Watson said he died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital, Slough.

Sir Nicholas brought the children to Britain, battling bureaucracy at both ends, saving them from almost certain death, and then kept quiet about his exploits for a half-century.

He organised a total of eight trains from Prague, with some other forms of transport also set up from Vienna.

The Englishman who saved children from the Holocaust

Nicholas Winton photographed with one of the children he rescued in 1939

Nicholas Winton-01

Nicholas Winton photographed with one of the children he rescued in 1939

» Sir Nicholas was born Nicholas Wertheimer in 1909 to Jewish parents

» By 1938 he was a young stockbroker in London

» He dropped everything to go to Prague to help Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi occupation

» Sir Nicholas organised foster families for Jewish children in Britain, placing adverts in newspapers

» The 669 children travelled on eight trains across four countries

» Sir Nicholas’s team persuaded British custom officials to allow all the children in despite incomplete documentation

Discover how Nicholas Winton pulled-off such a dangerous escape plan

The reluctant hero worked to find British families willing to put up £50 to look after the boys and girls in their homes.

Sir Nicholas was knighted by the Queen in March 2003. His work has been likened to that of the “saviour” of Jewish prisoners Oskar Schindler, however it was a comparison he was not particularly fond of.

The Rotary Club of Maidenhead, of which Sir Nicholas was former president, said his daughter Barbara and two grandchildren were at his side when he died.

As a six-year-old, former Labour MP, Lord Dubs, was one of the children who was put on a train out of Czechoslovakia

He paid an emotional tribute to his rescuer as “just one of those very special human beings”

“The real fact is that he was a man who saved my life and a lot of us who came on the Kindertransport owe him an enormous debt.

“His legacy is that when there is a need for you to do something for your fellow human beings, you have got to do it,” he said.

‘Moral courage’

His son Nick said of his father’s legacy: “It is about encouraging people to make a difference and not waiting for something to be done or waiting for someone else to do it.

“It’s what he tried to tell people in all his speeches and in the book written by my sister.”

‘English Schindler’ Winton was reunited with rescued children on That’s Life in 1988

Prime Minister David Cameron paid tribute to Sir Nicholas, tweeting: “The world has lost a great man. We must never forget Sir Nicholas Winton’s humanity in saving so many children from the Holocaust.”

Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to the UK, said: “He was a hero of our time, having saved 669 Jewish children from the Nazi regime. His legacy, as a point of light in an era of darkness, will forever be remembered”.

Last year, Sir Nicholas was awarded the Order of The White Lion by Czech president Milos Zeman.

Michael Zantovsky, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United Kingdom, who was a close friend described him as “a positive man who radiated good”.

“It was incredibly moving to be present at some of the gatherings of him with his so-called children and the children of his children. They all owe their existence to him.”

‘Unfailing courtesy’

Former prime minister Gordon Brown described Sir Nicholas as “a real hero of our times”.

“Anyone who had the privilege of meeting him immediately felt admiration, respect and were in awe of his courage.

“That courage led him to risk his life to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable people. His inspiration will live on,” he said.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis praised Sir Nicholas’ “exceptional courage, selflessness and modesty”.

“He lived to see thousands of descendants of those whose lives he saved who were proud to call themselves members of his family, and who were inspired by his example to undertake outstanding charitable, humanitarian and educational initiatives,” he said.

“I knew him to be a gentleman of unfailing old-world courtesy, with a warm heart and a ready self-deprecating wit.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 to 2013, called Sir Nicholas a “giant of moral courage” and “one of the heroes of our time”.

“Our sages said that saving a life is like saving a universe. Sir Nicholas saved hundreds of universes,” he said.

The Refugee Council tweeted: “Very sad to hear the news of the passing of Sir Nicholas Winton. He was an amazing man who saved many lives.”

1 July 2015 | From the section Berkshire | Original Source: bbc.com "Holocaust 'hero' Sir Nicholas Winton dies aged 106"

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-30895961

Nicholas Winton, Rescuer of 669 Children From Holocaust, Dies at 106 – The New York Times


A family picture of Nicholas Winton with one of the hundreds of Jewish children whose lives he saved during World War II. Credit Press Association, via Associated Press

Nicholas Winton, a Briton who said nothing for a half-century about his role in organizing the escape of 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II, a righteous deed like those of Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg, died on Wednesday in Maidenhead, England. He was 106.

The Rotary Club of Maidenhead,1)http://www.maidenheadrotary.co.uk/news of which Mr. Winton was a former president, announced his death on its website. He lived in Maidenhead, west of London.

It was only after Mr. Winton’s wife found a scrapbook in the attic of their home in 1988 — a dusty record of names, pictures and documents detailing a story of redemption from the Holocaust — that he spoke of his all-but-forgotten work in the deliverance of children who, like the parents who gave them up to save their lives, were destined for Nazi concentration camps and extermination.

For all his ensuing honors and accolades in books and films, Mr. Winton was a reluctant hero, often compared to Schindler, the ethnic German who saved 1,200 Jews by employing them in his enamelware and munitions factories in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and to Wallenberg, the Swedish businessman and diplomat who used illegal passports and legation hideaways to save tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary.

Mr. Winton — Sir Nicholas in England since 2003, when he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II — was a London stockbroker in December 1938 when, on an impulse, he canceled a Swiss skiing vacation and flew to Prague at the behest of a friend who was aiding refugees in the Sudetenland, the western region of Czechoslovakia that had just been annexed by Germany.

“Don’t bother to bring your skis,” the friend, Martin Blake, advised in a phone call.

Mr. Winton found vast camps of refugees living in appalling conditions. The pogroms of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass,” had recently struck Jewish shops, homes and synagogues in Germany and Austria. War looked inevitable, and escape, especially for children, seemed hopeless, given the restrictions against Jewish immigration in the West.

Britain, however, was an exception. In late 1938, it began a program, called Kindertransport, to admit unaccompanied Jewish children up to age 17 if they had a host family, with the offer of a 50-pound warranty for an eventual return ticket. The Refugee Children’s Movement in Britain sent representatives to Germany and Austria, and 10,000 Jewish children were saved before the war began.

But there was no comparable mass-rescue effort in Czechoslovakia. Mr. Winton created one. It involved dangers, bribes, forgery, secret contacts with the Gestapo, nine railroad trains, an avalanche of paperwork and a lot of money. Nazi agents started following him. In his Prague hotel room, he met terrified parents desperate to get their children to safety, although it meant surrendering them to strangers in a foreign land.

As their numbers grew, a storefront office was opened. Long lines attracted Gestapo attention. Perilous confrontations were resolved with bribes. Eventually he registered more than 900 children, although he had names and details on 5,000. In early 1939, he left two friends, Trevor Chadwick and Bill Barazetti, in charge in Prague and returned to London to find foster homes, raise money and arrange transportation.

He and a few volunteers, including his mother, calling themselves the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, Children’s Section, enlisted aid from the Refugee Children’s Movement, had photos of the children printed and appealed for funds and foster homes in newspaper ads and church and synagogue bulletins.

Hundreds of families volunteered to take children, and money trickled in from donors — not enough to cover all the costs, but Mr. Winton made up the difference himself. He also appealed to the Home Office for entry visas, but the response was slow and time was short. “This was a few months before the war broke out,” he recalled. “So we forged the Home Office entry permits.”

Nicholas Winton in 2014. CreditPetr David Josek/Associated Press

In Prague, Mr. Chadwick quietly cultivated the chief of the Gestapo, Karl Bömelburg — they called him “the criminal rat” after his inspector’s rank of kriminalrat — and arranged for forged transit papers and bribes to be passed to key Nazis and Czech railway officials, who threatened to halt trains or seize the children unless they were paid off. The Gestapo chief proved instrumental, clearing the trains and transit papers, Mr. Chadwick said.

Searing Separations

Mr. Winton sent more money, some for bribes and some to cover expenses for children whose parents had been arrested and shot or had fled into hiding, while many of the Czech families sold possessions to pay for their children’s escape. The red tape and paperwork seemed endless.

But on March 14, 1939, it all came together. Hours before Hitler dismembered the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia as a German “Protectorate,” the first 20 children left Prague on a train. Survivors told of searing scenes on the station platform in the final moments before departure as children sobbed and pleaded not to be sent away and parents faced giving up their children.

Mr. Winton and his colleagues later arranged for eight more trains to get the rest of the children out, crossing the Third Reich through Nuremberg and Cologne to the Hook of Holland, then across the North Sea by boat to Harwich, Essex, and on by British rail to the Liverpool Street Station in London. There, he and the host families met the children. Each refugee had a small bag and wore a name tag.

But only seven of the eight trains made it through, the last in early August, bringing the total rescued to 669. About 250 children, the largest group, were on board the last train out, on Sept. 1, 1939. On that day, however, Hitler invaded Poland, all borders controlled by Germany were closed and Mr. Winton’s rescue efforts came to an end.

“Within hours of the announcement, the train disappeared,” he recalled. “None of the 250 children aboard was ever seen again.” All were believed to have perished in concentration camps.

Nearly all the saved children were orphans by war’s end, their parents killed at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen or Theresienstadt. After the war, many remained in Britain, but others returned to Czechoslovakia or emigrated to Israel, Australia or the United States. The survivors, many now in their 70s and 80s, still call themselves “Winton’s Children.”

Mr. Winton received the Czech Republic’s highest honor from President Vaclav Havel in 1998.Credit“Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation”

A Scrapbook in the Attic

Among them are the film director Karel Reisz, who made “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981), “Isadora” (1968) and “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (1960); Alfred, Lord Dubs, who became a member of Parliament; Joe Schlesinger, a Canadian broadcast correspondent; Hugo Marom, a founder of the Israeli Air Force; Vera Gissing, the author of “Pearls of Childhood” (2007) and other books; and Renata Laxová, a geneticist who discovered the Neu-Laxová Syndrome, a congenital abnormality.

Mr. Winton was born Nicholas George Wertheim in London on May 19, 1909, one of three children of Rudolf and Barbara Wertheimer Wertheim. His parents were of German-Jewish origin but converted to Christianity and changed the family name to Winton. His father was a merchant banker, and Nicholas and his siblings, Bobby and Charlotte, grew up in a 20-room mansion in West Hampstead, London. He and Bobby were skilled fencers and late in life established the Winton Cup, a major British competition in the sport.

Nicholas attended Stowe School in Buckingham, was apprenticed in international banking in London and worked at Behrens Bank in Hamburg, Wassermann’s Bank in Berlin and Banque Nationale de Crédit in Paris. He was fluent in German and French when he returned to London in 1931 and became a stockbroker.

He was a Royal Air Force officer in the war and later worked for refugee organizations and the Abbeyfield Society, a charity that assists the elderly. He raised more than £1 million in one fund-raising drive. In 1983, he was made a member of the Order of the British Empire for his charity work.

Nicholas Winton is greeted by a woman who was one of the 669 mostly Jewish children that he helped to escape Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939. A Briton, he kept silent about his role in organizing the evacuations for 50 years, until his wife found a scrapbook in the attic.CreditGeoff Caddick/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“I did not think for one moment that they would be of interest to anyone so long after it happened,” Mr. Winton recalled later.

But he reluctantly agreed to let her explore the matter. She gave the scrapbook to a Holocaust historian. A newspaper article followed. Then a BBC television program featured the story of his rescues, and the publicity went worldwide.

He was showered with encomiums: the Czech Republic’s highest award, honorary citizenship of Prague, an American congressional resolution, letters of appreciation from President George W. Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, former President Ezer Weizman of Israel and people around the world, and a nomination by the Czech Republic for the Nobel Peace Prize. His scrapbook went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel. Streets and schools were named for him. Statues went up in Prague and London.

Incredulous at Fame

Why did he do it?

He never really explained, though he offered a bare rationale in an interview with The New York Times in 2001: “One saw the problem there, that a lot of these children were in danger, and you had to get them to what was called a safe haven, and there was no organization to do that. Why did I do it? Why do people do different things? Some people revel in taking risks, and some go through life taking no risks at all.”

Ms. Gissing, in her book “Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation: Save One Life, Save the World” (2001, with Muriel Emanuel), said Mr. Winton was incredulous at his fame. “Winton still shakes his head in bewilderment and disbelief when compared with Oskar Schindler and Raoul Wallenberg,” she wrote. “I try to make him realize that his contribution to the human race is immeasurable.”

The rescues were explored in three films by the Slovak director Matej Minác: the fictionalized “All My Loved Ones” (1999); a documentary, “The Power of Good: Nicholas Winton” (2002); and “Nicky’s Family” (2011), and in Mr. Minác’s book, “Nicholas Winton’s Lottery of Life” (2007).

On Sept. 1, 2009, 70 years after the onset of the war halted the rescue operations, a special train with a locomotive and carriages from the 1930s left Prague to re-create the perilous 1939 journeys. On board were some of the original Winton’s Children and many of their descendants, whose numbers now exceed 6,000.

They were met at Liverpool Street Station by Mr. Winton, who had recently turned 100.

Correction: July 2, 2015
An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to the honor bestowed on Mr. Winton in 1983. He was made a member of the Order of the British Empire; he did not “receive” the Order of the British Empire.
July 1, 2015 | By Robert D. McFadden | Original Source: nytimes.com "Nicholas Winton, Rescuer of 669 Children From Holocaust, Dies at 106."

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.maidenheadrotary.co.uk/news