True WWII Hero Has Died at 106

Nicholas Winton almost single-handedly saved 669 Jewish children
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 1, 2015 11:14 AM CDT
True WWII Hero Has Died at 106
An Oct. 28, 2014, photo from files of the then-105-year-old Sir Nicholas Winton.   (AP Photo/Petr David Josek, File)

Nicholas Winton, a humanitarian who almost single-handedly saved more than 650 Jewish children from the Holocaust, earning himself the label "Britain's Schindler," died today at the age of 106. Born in London in 1909 to parents of German-Jewish descent, Winton himself was raised as a Christian. He was a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange when a friend contacted him and told him to cancel the skiing holiday they had planned in late 1938 and travel instead to Czechoslovakia. Alarmed by the influx of refugees from the Sudetenland region recently annexed by Germany, Winton and his friend feared—correctly—that Czechoslovakia soon would be invaded by the Nazis and Jewish residents from there would be sent to concentration camps.

While supporters in Britain were working to get Jewish intellectuals and Communists out of Czechoslovakia, little focus was put on trying to save the children, so Winton took the task upon himself. He persuaded British officials to accept children, as long as foster homes were found and a 50-pound guarantee was paid for each to ensure they had enough money to return home later. Winton set about finding homes and guarantors, and in the months before the outbreak of World War II, Winton got 669 children out, mostly via train. The largest evacuation was scheduled for Sept. 3, 1939, the day that Britain declared war on Germany. That train never left, and almost none of the 250 children trying to flee on it survived the war. 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 their attic. More on the man, who rejected the label of hero, here. (Read more Holocaust stories.)

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