living legend

'British Schindler' honoured for saving hundreds of children from Nazi death camps

Sir Nicholas Winton brought 669 Czech children to safety in 1939.

Czech Sir Winton Decoration Petr David Josek Petr David Josek

THE PRESIDENT OF the Czech Republic awarded a 105-year-old British man his country’s highest state honour, for organising a mass evacuation of children to save them from Nazi death camps.

Sir Nicholas Winton received the Order of the White Lion from President Milos Zeman at a ceremony in Prague Castle yesterday.

Accepting the award, the 105-year-old Winton said he was delighted to receive it.

I want to thank you all for this tremendous expression of thanks for something which happened to me nearly 100 years ago.
And 100 years is a heck of a long time.

Czech Sir Winton Decoration Petr David Josek Petr David Josek

In 1939, Winton arranged for eight trains to carry 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia, through Hitler’s Germany, to Britain.

The children were sent to foster parents – mostly in England, a small number in Sweden.

In 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised him as “Britain’s Schindler,” after the German businessman Oskar Schindler, who also saved Jewish lives during the war.

Today, Zeman said he was ashamed that Winton had waited so long to get the honour but added: “Better late than never.”

Winton gave credit to the many foster parents who made the mission possible.

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

Nicholas Winton An undated photo of Sir Nicholas Winton with one of the Czech children whose life he saved. PA Archive / Press Association Images PA Archive / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The Czechs have repeatedly nominated Winton for the Nobel Peace Prize.

His exploits only emerged in 1988, when his wife came across correspondence from the time of World War II.

The same year, he was featured in an episode of the BBC programme That’s Life, which contained this moving moment, where Winton was surprised by a group of the children whose lives he had saved.

Contains reporting from the Associated Press.

aggy007 / YouTube

First published 29 October, 10.20pm

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