Sir Nicholas Winton, ‘Britain’s Schindler’, dies aged 106

Tributes paid to organiser of rescue of 669 Jewish children from the Holocaust in 1939

File photograph of Sir Nicholas Winton, ‘Britain’s Schindler’. Photograph: Petr Josek/Reuters

File photograph of Sir Nicholas Winton, ‘Britain’s Schindler’. Photograph: Petr Josek/Reuters

 

Sir Nicholas Winton, who organised the rescue of Jewish children from the Holocaust in 1939, has died aged 106, his family said.

He became known as “Britain’s Schindler” for saving the lives of 669 children by sending them from Prague to London by train.

His son-in-law Stephen Watson said Sir Nicholas died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital in Slough.

A statement from the Rotary Club of Maidenhead, of which Sir Nicholas was a member, said: “It is with much sadness I have to report that Sir Nicky Winton died peacefully early this morning.

“Nicky’s daughter Barbara and two grandchildren were with him when he died and Barbara said that he was aware of their presence.”

Sir Nicholas organised eight trains from Prague to London to carry children away from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia as he feared they would be sent to concentration camps.

He also helped to find foster families for the children once they arrived in England, but he did not reveal his bravery for half a century.

Last year, after being awarded the Order Of The White Lion by Czech president Milos Zeman at a ceremony in Prague, Sir Nicholas thanked the British people for welcoming the children.

“I thank the British people for making room for them, to accept them, and of course the enormous help given by so many of the Czechs who at that time were doing what they could to fight the Germans and to try and get the children out,” Sir Nicholas said.

“In that respect, I was of some help and this is the result.”

Sir Nicholas, from a German-Jewish family, also received a knighthood in 2003 and a Hero of the Holocaust medal at Downing Street in 2010.

Speaking last year to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said he was well aware of the urgency of the situation in 1939.

“I knew better than most, and certainly better than the politicians, what was going on in Germany. We had staying with us people who were refugees from Germany at that time. Some who knew they were in danger of their lives,” he said.

‘20th century hero’

British home secretary Theresa May said Sir Nicholas was a “hero of the 20th century”.

She said: “Against the odds, he almost single-handedly rescued hundreds of children, mostly Jewish, from the Nazis - an enduring example of the difference that good people can make even in the darkest of times.

“Because of his modesty, this astonishing contribution only came to light many years later. So many people owe their lives to Nicholas and it was fitting that, in his later years, he finally received the recognition he deserved.

“Maidenhead is rightly proud of all that he did, and we must ensure that his legacy lives on by continuing to tackle anti-Semitism and discrimination wherever it arises.”

PA