Wednesday 2 September 2015

Nicholas Winton

Nicholas Winton was born on 19 May 1909. He helped to rescue 669 children, most of whom were Jewish, from Czechoslovakia. He did this through what came to be known as the Czech Kindertransport. He founded homes for the children in Britain as well as helping then to get there. The UK press has sometimes referred to him as the British Schindler. 
His parents were German Jews who moved to Hampstead. London in 1909.     
Winton's parents were of German-Jewish origin, originally called Wertheim. In 1907, they moved from Germany to Hampstead, London where they also changed their name.
Just before Christmas in 1936, Winton, by now a stockbroker, gave up a skiing holiday in order to help a friend in Prague, Martin Blake, who was working with Jewish refugees. He decided to set about organizing help for the children of Jewish families who were at risk form the Nazi regime. His office was a dining table in his hotel.
He found places for 669 children on a special Kindertransport. The last group of 250 left Prague on 1 September 1939.  Unfortunately this last group was sent back because the Nazis invaded Poland. Most of them did not survive the Holocaust. 250 people waited for them in vain at London Liverpool Street station. Of the 669 who did get to Britain, most never saw their parents again. 
Winton registered as a conscientious objector and worked first for the Red Cross and then in Administrative and Special duties for the Royal Air Force during World War II.  
He kept quiet about all the rescue work he had done until his wife Grete found a scrapbook in their loft in 1988. It contained lists of children, including their family details. 80 children who had been saved were contacted and appeared with Winton on a special edition of Esther Rantzen’s That’s Life broadcast that year.   
In 2010, Winton was named a British Hero of the Holocaust by the Britsh Government. A statue in his honour was erected at Maidenhead Station in September 2010. There is another statue exists at Prague railway station.
On 1 September 2009, a special "Winton train" set off from the Prague Main railway station. The train, consisting of an original locomotive and carriages used in the 1930s, headed to London via the original Kindertransport route. On board the train were several surviving "Winton children" and their descendants, who were to be welcomed by Winton in London. The occasion marked the 70th anniversary of the intended last Kindertransport, which was due to set off on 3 September 1939 but never did because of the outbreak of the Second World War.

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