I’ve been greatly saddened by today’s passing of Sir Nicholas Winton, one of Britain’s great humanitarian heroes.
Sir Nicholas was known as the ‘British Schindler’ for his role in saving 669 Jewish children in then-Czechoslovakia from the Nazis in 1938 and 1939.
Winton lived at 20 Willow Road, in Hampstead Town, in 1938. It was there that he saw the spread of Nazi control of central Europe prior to World War I, and the oppression of the Jewish people by their sick ideology.
He decided that he couldn’t stand by and do nothing. He set up what he called the Children’s Section of the British Committee for Refugees in Czechoslovakia – despite the BCRC refusing it formal recognition – and ran it as a one-man and later two-man operation out of Willow Road.
He worked tirelessly, around his job in the City of London, to locate Jewish children in Czechoslovakia, find British families that could look after them, and organise the ‘Kindertransport’ to bring them to safety – along with the funding to hopefully return them to Czechoslovakia after the war. 669 children were saved by the time war broke out in September 1939 and ended the transports.
This heart-warming segment on That’s Life! always brings a tear to my eye. We should never forget the horrors of the Holocaust, nor the heroism of those that worked tirelessly to prevent suffering in the face of the greatest evil humanity has ever known.
Visiting the Yad Vashem – Israel’s memorial to the Shoah – was a truly humbling experience. Through the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust, more British children are able to visit Auschwitz to see the horrors of the Nazi death camps for themselves: an important project in what is sadly an era of rising anti-Semitism.
I am investigating ways we can remember Sir Nicholas and commemorate his courage in our community. Thanks to his efforts, 669 Jewish children were saved by the time war broke out in September 1939. They, and thousands of others, owe their lives to the unassuming man from Hampstead: an example to us all.