‘Hero’ who saved Jewish children dies at 106
Sir Nicholas Winton has died. He rescued children from the Nazis. But does his story tell us that humans can do extraordinary good, or are willing to let dreadful evil happen?
Sir Nicholas Winton has died aged 106. Sir Nicholas organised the ‘Kindertransport’, which took 669 Jewish children out of Czechoslovakia to safety in 1938 and 1939. Soon afterwards the Nazis started killing millions of Jews in parts of Europe they had conquered, including Czechoslovakia.
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In 1938 Sir Nicholas went to Prague, the capital of Czechoslovakia. When he saw the danger facing Jews there, he created the ‘Kindertransport’ in his spare time. His team raised money and made arrangements to bring eight trains of children to Britain and settle them with families.
He was so modest that he did not tell his family about his work until 1988. Then his wife found a scrapbook with letters, permits, photographs and other souvenirs which told the story.
He was knighted in 2003. The UK’s chief rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, called him ‘one of the greatest people I have ever met’.
Over two-thirds of Czech Jews died during the Holocaust. Many of them were killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Sir Nicholas showed the amazing good of which human beings are capable. He was very selfless and brave. Theresa May, the Home Secretary and his MP, called him ‘an enduring example of the difference that good people can make even in the darkest of times’. And former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said ‘his inspiration will live on’.
Sir Nicholas was one of just a few who had the ‘courage to care’, in the words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. If everybody had paid more attention, many more people might have been saved. His story’s real lessons are in other people failing to act and standing by. And, as people fleeing war still struggle to find safety, little has changed.
- Is every person capable of changing the world for the better?
- Draw a statue or memorial for Sir Nicholas Winton.
Some People Say...
“I wasn’t heroic because I was never in danger.”Sir Nicholas Winton
What do you think?
- A country divided in 1993 into the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
- A book used to collect items from a particular event or time.
- Leader of a Jewish religious service, and reader of the Torah, which Jews consider their holy book.
- During the Second World War, Germany’s Nazi rulers tried to exterminate the Jewish people. They killed six million before the war ended.
- Standing by
- See our Theme Holocaust Memorial Day.