It is with great sorrow that we learned about the passing of Sir Nicholas Winton, the British humanitarian whose work to save more than 650 Jewish children in Austria from the Holocaust earned him the nickname “Britian’s Schindler.”
Born in London in 1909 to parents of German Jewish descent, Winton himself was raised as a Christian. He was a 29-year-old clerk at the London Stock Exchange when a friend contacted him and told him to cancel the skiing holiday they had planned in late 1938 and travel instead to Czechoslovakia.
Alarmed by the influx of refugees from the Sudetenland region recently annexed by Germany, Winton and his friend feared — correctly — that Czechoslovakia soon would be invaded by the Nazis and Jewish residents from there would be sent to concentration camps.
While supporters in Britain were working to get Jewish intellectuals and communists out of Czechoslovakia, no one was trying to save the children, so Winton took the task upon himself.
Winton’s impressive humanitarian work continued after the war as well. For decades he worked with a charity to help people with learning disabilities and with another to help provide housing for the elderly. The story of his incredible work to save children from the Holocaust was unknown for much of his life, and it was only with the prompting of his wife that it was eventually documented.
Winton rejected the description of himself as a hero, insisting that unlike Schindler, his life had never been in danger. He was always modest about his achievements, and his reasons for acting.
“At the time, everybody said, ‘Isn’t it wonderful what you’ve done for the Jews? You saved all these Jewish people,'” Winton said. “When it was first said to me, it came almost as a revelation because I didn’t do it particularly for that reason. I was there to save children.”
We thank God for the life and work of this remarkable man.