He Saved the Lives of 669 People, and On This Night, They Honored Him
In 1938, Nicolas Winton was a 29-year-old British stockbroker of German-Jewish heritage. He was about to fly to Switzerland on a ski vacation when he was asked to help his friend, Martin Blake, who was in Prague working with the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. Winton changed his plans, and he helped to orchestrate the rescue of 669 Jewish Czechoslovakian children on their way to the Nazi death camps.
The operation was called the Czech Kindertransport.
After Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass in Nazi Germany, the British government decided to permit children under age 17 to come to Britain under two conditions. They must have a place to stay, and have 50 pounds set aside for their eventual return.
Winton’s story was relatively unknown until his wife found a scrapbook of the operation. In 1988 he was honored on the British television program, “That’s Life,” where he received the surprise of his life. Producers had arranged seating in the auditorium so that the unsuspecting Winton would be surrounded by many of the people whose lives he had saved. In the emotional reveal, the host asked those who owed their lives to the guest of honor to stand. His shock and tears are moving to see.
Still living in London at 105 years of age, Sir Nicholas Winton has been knighted by the Queen, and has received an array of other honors. He has been the subject of a number of media programs, including a fall of 2014 broadcast on 60 Minutes.