"Save one life, save the world."
November 24, 2013 5:03 PM   Subscribe

In 1988, Nicholas Winton appeared on the BBC program "That's Life."

Background: Mr. Winton organized the rescue of 669 mostly Jewish children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II in an operation later known as the Czech Kindertransport.

"Winton, then a young stockbroker, began a British office for refugee children and forged passports, visas, and adoption papers to get 7- to 9-year-olds out of German territory and into homes in Britain and Scotland. 'It wasn't getting the children out which was difficult — it was that no one else tried.' And how did he deal with the Nazis' bureaucratic objections? "I told them politely in German, 'Go to hell.'"

About the program, from the UK Telegraph: Sir Nicholas Winton meets the Holocaust survivors he helped save.

NPR: Finding A Hero Amid Fading Memories.

More from Jewish Virtual Library and Wikipedia.
posted by zarq (12 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Sir Nicholas Winton celebrated his 100th birthday on May 19th, 2009. He is now 104.

As of 2009, the direct descendants of "Winton's Children" numbered over 5,000 people.
posted by zarq at 5:04 PM on November 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

posted by slater at 5:24 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, bless* his sweet heart! Heroes come in all shapes and circumstances; immediate personal danger is not a requirement. This man is one of mankind's heroes. His modesty is adorable.

* By who, I wouldn't know. I'm not a believer in anything. But, this man... awwww.
posted by _paegan_ at 6:08 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hava nagila! :)
posted by jaduncan at 6:09 PM on November 24, 2013

save one life, save the world

Indeed. We need more people like this gentleman.
posted by arcticseal at 6:32 PM on November 24, 2013

He did this aged 29! I don't care how British and modest he wants to be about it, that's absolutely extraordinary. I can't imagine being in that position and, even if one realized that the children needed saving, managing to actually navigate the bureaucratic process and logistical issues, and I'm not 29 anymore.
posted by axiom at 8:05 PM on November 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

When I was at boarding school in the late 70s, I remember one of my schoolmasters—who was not prone to flights of exaggeration—describing how he had taken a trip over to Germany shortly before WWII to help someone he knew arrange the evacuation of Jewish children. I can't remember many details and I certainly can't remember the name, but he gave us the impression that it was one man working almost entirely alone. I'll never know if he was talking about Winton, but I like to think he was.

(The schoolmaster's name was Oliver Johnson—no relation to the author I later published—and he was the only teacher I remember with any fondness. A delightful man.)
posted by Hogshead at 3:56 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thanks sincerely for posting this. Every one of these stories makes me cry.
posted by newdaddy at 3:57 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

War really can bring out the best in some people. Nicholas Winton may not be a hero in the usual sense of the word but he is a great human being and his self-effacement is itself almost heroic.
posted by epo at 5:07 AM on November 25, 2013

Something I noticed and melted at - he recorded their origins and tracked their placements. During an emergency like wartime, children are moved and it often slides into a kind of justified trafficking for adoption, with a saviour or profit motive, but he was saving children, not himself or their adoptive parents, but the kids for their families. I've heard people use the past of Nazi war orphans as justification for illegal adoption trafficking, and it was just so nice to see that detail.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:55 AM on November 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

epo: "War really can bring out the best in some people. Nicholas Winton may not be a hero in the usual sense of the word but he is a great human being and his self-effacement is itself almost heroic."

Pretty sure 90% of the world would agree he's a hero, so I'm not sure what definition you're going by.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:19 PM on November 25, 2013

London marks 75th anniversary of Kindertransport
During Hanukkah 1938, just weeks after Kristallnacht, children fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe began their historic journeys to foster care in the UK

posted by Joe in Australia at 8:59 PM on December 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

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