Nicholas Winton was a 29-year old British stockbroker working in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1938 during the gradual conquest of that nation by Nazi Germany. He was aware that the Jews there were in great danger. He wanted to save as many as possible, especially the children. So Winton and his colleagues arranged for host families in Britain and Sweden to take the children. They made phone calls, sent letters, scrounged up money, and arranged the logistics for this massive undertaking—all while holding down his day job as a stockbroker. He helped 669 children escape from the Holocaust in occupied Europe.
Then Winton returned to Britain as that nation and Germany went to war in 1939. He drove an ambulance and later joined the Royal Air Force. After the war, he worked in various positions, including co-owning a popsicle factory.
Winton didn’t talk about the rescue, not even to his wife. The Washington Post reports:
In the late 1980s, Mr. Winton’s wife, the former Grete Gjelstrup, was rooting through the attic when she came upon a scrapbook containing documents related to the wartime rescue effort. He had never mentioned it to her. […]
The scrapbook made its way to Elisabeth Maxwell , the Holocaust scholar and wife of newspaper magnate Robert Maxwell. Soon, Mr. Winton found himself featured in British newspapers and on the BBC television program “That’s Life!”
Here is an incredible scene from that program. You should watch it right now.
Sir Nicholas Winton died today at the age of 106.
-via Jonah Goldberg