It’s the 106th birthday of Sir Nicholas Winton, a British humanitarian who organized the rescue of 669 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War, in an operation known as the Czech Kindertransport. Winton found homes for the children and arranged for their safe passage to Britain.
After the war was over, Winton told no one about his humanitarian exploits for many years, and might never have done so had his wife not discovered an old scrapbook of his in their attic in 1988. It contained lists of the children he had saved, along with their parents’ names and the names and addresses of the British families that had taken them in. By sending letters to these addresses, eighty of “Winton’s children” were found in Britain.
The world found out about Winton’s work during an episode of the BBC television program That’s Life, when Winton was invited to be a member of the audience. The program’s host showed Winton’s scrapbook and explained to the audience what he had done; she then asked whether any members of the audience owed their lives to Winton, and, if so, to stand. More than two dozen people surrounding Winton rose to their feet and applauded.
In 2002 Winton was knighted by Queen Elizabeth in recognition of his work on the Czech Kindertransport, and in 2014 he was awarded the highest honour of the Czech Republic, the Order of the White Lion, by Czech President Miloš Zeman.