'British Schindler' dies, aged 106

Sir Nicholas Winton brought 669 mostly Jewish children on eight trains to Britain through Germany in 1939.
Sir Nicholas Winton brought 669 mostly Jewish children on eight trains to Britain through Germany in 1939.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON • A man who became known as the"British Schindler" for saving hundreds of Czech children from Nazi persecution in the run-up to World War II, has died at the age of 106.

Sir Nicholas Winton, who was knighted in 2002, died on Wednesday with his daughter Barbara and two grandchildren at his side, said a statement from the Rotary Club of Maidenhead in England, of which he was a former president.

He had brought 669 mostly Jewish children on eight trains to Britain through Germany in 1939, but the ninth with 250 children never left Prague as war broke out. None of them were seen again.

He had worked as a stockbroker before heading to Prague in 1938 to help with welfare work for Czech refugees and was 29 when he masterminded the children's rescue. His achievements were often compared with those of Oskar Schindler, the ethnic German industrialist who saved 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust and was the subject of the 1993 film, Schindler's List. His wartime exploits remained a secret until his wife Greta found a detailed scrapbook in their attic in 1988.

"You can't come up to somebody and say: 'By the way, do you want to know what I did in 1939?' People don't talk about what they did in the war," Sir Nicholas told Reuters Television in 2009.

Over the years, his work had been recognised with awards and a small planet discovered by Czech astronomers named in his honour. He had also been commended by the US House of Representatives, which said it "urges men and women everywhere to recognise in Winton's remarkable humanitarian effort the difference that one devoted, principled individual can make in changing and improving the lives of others".

The Rotary Club cited a 1939 letter in which Sir Nicholas had written: "There is a difference between passive goodness and active goodness... It entails going out, finding and helping those in suffering and danger and not merely in leading an exemplary life in a purely passive way of doing no wrong."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2015, with the headline ''British Schindler' dies, aged 106'. Print Edition | Subscribe