Sir Nicholas Winton, British Schindler, Dies at 106

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Sir Nicholas Winton with one of the children he saved. (National Archives)
01 Jul 2015
Inspiration
Sir Nicholas Winton with one of the children he saved. (National Archives)
Sir Nicholas Winton with one of the children he saved. (National Archives)

Sir Nicholas Winton, known as the “British Schindler,” died today at 106. Winton, a stockbroker, ferried 669 Jewish children out of occupied Prague as “the one-man children’s section of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia.” He organized eight trains and then found homes for all of the children in England.

As the BBC notes, his death arrived on the anniversary of one of the train’s departure. There are so many remarkable elements to Winton’s story that it’s hard to figure out what is the most incredible. That he single-handedly saved 650 kids? Or perhaps, in this age of Facebook oversharing and celebrity memoirs, Winton didn’t tell anyone.

A memorial to Sir Winton in Prague (Flor Kent).
A memorial to Sir Winton in Prague (Flor Kent).

For almost 50 years, Winton said nothing about what he had done before the war. It only emerged in 1988 when his wife Grete found documents in the attic of their home.

“There are all kinds of things you don’t talk about, even with your family,” Winton said in 1999. “Everything that happened before the war actually didn’t feel important in the light of the war itself.”

His wife eventually convinced him to have the story documented. The BBC eventually arranged a reunion on television. You can watch that below, but be prepared to shed a tear for the great man the world just lost.

“Our sages said that saving a life is like saving a universe. Sir Nicholas saved hundreds of universes,” said Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of England.

 

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.