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Sir Nicky Winton

There are not many people that have heard that of Sir Nicholas Winton which is what he would have wanted. Yet this man saved 664 lives directly and 15000 indirectly and never told a soul: not even his wife or the people he saved. A successful stockbroker he took 2 weeks off in 1938 to organise the safe transport of 664 Czech Jewish children. The United States would not have them and the UK if they had homes, which by devious means he organised.

He has been called the British Schindler. I once attended a talk by Thomas Kennealy on his book Schindler’s List. He was asked where on the moral compass he would place Schindler and replied “In times like those you needed an operator not a saint”. Winton was much the same, forging the odd document if it meant saving life. Only a chance discovery of his scrapbook in the attic by his wife revealed the extraordinary saving of so many young lives. On a That’s Life programme, unknown to him, he sat in an audience of those he saved.

You might have thought he had done enough but no he worked on the Abbeyfoeld Project to build old people’s homes. In an interview he was asked why he was so secretive. With a cheeky smile he replied:

“I was not secretive. I just never spoke of it”

My father used to say a nice Englishman is the finest person you would ever meet. In a world of celebrity, self promotion and immodesty, Sir Nicky Winton still going strong at 104 endorses that view. Here is a clip of the programme. I would be surprised if you can watch it with a dry eye:



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About Neil Rosen

Neil went to the City of London School and Manchester University graduating with a 1st in economics. After a brief stint in accountancy, Neil emigrated to a kibbutz In Israel. His articles on the burgeoning Israeli film industry earned comparisons to Truffaut and Godard in Cahiers du Cinema. Now one of the world's leading film critics and moderators at film Festivals Neil has written definitively in his book Kosher Nostra on Jewish post war actors. Neil lives with his family in North London. More Posts