The Rotary Club of Maidenhead, of which Sir Nicholas was ex- president, said his daughter Barbara and two grandchildren were at his side when he died. Traveling with a friend to Czechoslovakia in 1938, as the drums of impending war echoed around Europe, Nicholas Winton was hit by a key realization.
The British government had recently voted to allow Jewish refugees under 17 into the country, in response to the series of coordinated attacks against Jews in November 1939 known as Kristallnacht.
This resolutely courageous man endowed with indomitable will single-handedly, saved 669 children from Nazi concentration camps by arranging trains to carry the children from Nazi-occupied Prague to Britain.
Mr. Brown called Sir Nicholas “a real hero of our times” and added: “Anyone who had the privilege of meeting him immediately felt admiration, respect and were in awe of his courage”.
It was there that he organized trains that transported 669 children, majority Jews, to Britain in 1939, saving them from concentration camps and near-certain death.
Explaining why he wanted to help, he said: “I work on the motto that if something’s not impossible there must be a way of doing it”. “His legacy is that when there is a need for you to do something for your fellow human beings, you have got to do it”, Dubs said. “Let’s get it done”. “He was a giant of moral courage and determination, and he will be mourned by Jewish people around the world”.
“Everybody that had met him, all our kids, said this was a man with a fantastic sense of humor, all that sparkle about him in his life and in his eye”. His parents were of German-Jewish origin but converted to Christianity and changed the family name to Winton.
Blake asked Winton to cancel his planned skiing holiday and go to Czechoslovakia to help Jewish refugees. Instead, he emphasized the bravery of his colleagues Trevor Chadwick and Doreen Warriner, who risked their lives by staying in Prague to oversee the operation under the noses of the Gestapo.
It is estimated that there are now 6,000 people in the world today “who owe their lives to him”. Hours before Adolf Hitler dismembered the Czech provinces of Bohemia and Moravia as a German “Protectorate”, the first 20 children left Prague on a train. Because of Britain’s Kindertransport program, it was possible to get unaccompanied Jewish children to safety-but it wasn’t easy.
About 250 children, the largest group, were on board the last train out, on September 1, 1939.
Although many more Jewish children were saved from Berlin and Vienna, those operations were better organized and better financed.
In the 1930’s, Winton worked as a stockbroker in England.
Mr. Winton sent more money, some for bribes and some to cover expenses for children whose parents had been arrested and shot or had fled. He has also drawn criticism from some quarters because some of the Jewish children he rescued were placed in Christian homes in Britain. “But I would claim that everybody who came over was alive at the end of the war”. Nevertheless, Winton continued to organize the evacuation. After the war, he became involved in numerous other charitable organizations, especially in his home town of Maidenhead, west of London. In 2003, he was knighted in the Queen’s honors List and in 2009 a statue of him was unveiled at Prague train station.
But for nearly 50 years, Winton said nothing about what he had done before the war.