The incredible story of how a humble London stockbroker saved 669 children – most of them Jews – from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II
Hundreds of people who were rescued as children by a man described as “Britain’s Oskar Schindler” gathered together to attend a special service in honor of the “unassuming” hero who saved their lives. He passed away last year at the age of 106. His name is Sir Nicholas Winton, and he rescued children in Czechoslovakia as World War II was just getting underway.
The operation known as the “Kinderstransport” facilitated the ability of British families to take more than 600 Jewish children to London. The alternative was letting them be rounded up to be sent to concentration camps.
John Fieldsend, who is 84 years old and has seven grandchildren, described Sir Nicholas as a truly amazing man. He lost both parents along with other family members to the concentration camps. He said, “I think what we can learn is that one or two people can make a difference.
He was not your public idea of a hero; very quiet, very unassuming. Even after the rescue, he really gave his life to charity.”
Kurt Taussig is 92 years old and resides in west London, but was only 15 when he had to leave Czechoslovakia. He lost his entire family during the Holocaust except for two brothers. He also said, “We owe everything to him – myself, my family, my children, everything. He didn’t look for fame or fortune; it was just something he did.”
Renate Collins is 82 years old, but she was just five when she left Prague on the Kindertransport. She remembers how 64 members of her family were murdered during the Holocaust. Collins resides in Wales and can only hope that Sir Nicholas knows how incredibly appreciated he was by them.
Other guests were survivors from Israel, the Czech Republic, and the United States. Also in attendance were many descendants of those rescued by Sir Nicholas.
The memorial service was held at London’s Guildhall on Thursday, May 19th, which would have been Sir Nicholas’s 107th birthday. The UK home secretary Theresa May and dignitaries from the Czech Republic and Slovakia also attended the memorial.
The event was even more poignant as the biggest European refugee crisis since the Second World War continues to rage on. Mr. Taussig said, “It is hard to put into words but what goes on now is vastly worse than what I experienced, which was just the beginning of the continental mess and concentration camps and so on.
The sheer numbers of children and women involved is heartbreaking.”
Taussig does what he can but, of course, the efforts of one are limited in how much change they can bring about. It is happening all over the world as millions of children in the Middle East and Asia suffer. There are so many places one could name.
The son of Sir Nicholas, Nick, spoke at the service, hoping that his father’s actions would continue to inspire others to help those in need. He movingly said, “It is his legacy to inspire and encourage all of us to be actively involved in our own communities. He’s inspired me, my sister, and many others I know, many of you in this room – and that is one of the ways his memory will live on and stay with us in the future.”
Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized the rescue and passage to Britain of about 669 mostly Jewish Czechoslovakian children destined for the Nazi death camps before World War II in an operation known as the Czech Kindertransport. This video is the BBC Programme “That’s Life” aired in 1988.