Meet Sir Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who saved 669 Jewish children from Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia at the outbreak of World War II. Read his biography, see photos and a video of him below.

Its always interesting to see what constitutes being a ‘hero’. More times than not, its an ordinary person who is thrust into extraordinary circumstances and chooses to do ‘the right thing’ even if that means great risk to himself. Not everybody is of that caliber, but Sir Nicholas Winton certainly is. As a Briton, he could have very easily ignored the dangers looming from the east as the cancer of Nazism spread throughout Europe. Instead, he recognized the threat that was gathering and took action that saved hundreds of children in the very beginnings of the war and until the Nazis stopped him.

Now, more than 70 years later, Winton has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Czech government. His nomination is the result of 32,000 school children signing a petition in admiration of his actions at the beginning of the war after learning of him in school

It all started when Winton, then a young stockbroker from England, was taking a skiing holiday in Switzerland in 1939. He heard about the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and that Prague was being overrun with refugees fleeing the Nazis. He canceled his vacation and went to Prague instead. What he saw there filled him with resolve to do what he could to save the children he saw living in squalid refugee camps.

In what was dubbed ‘Czech Kindertransport’, he and others drew up a list of children whose parents would allow their children to go to Britain until the crisis was over. Of course, no one had any idea at the time the horrific levels the ‘crisis’ would go to before it was over. The list had 5,000 children on it and the transportation began. The British government gave Winton permission to bring as many children as he could as long as he found families to care for them and they would return home when the danger was over. Winton found families in England willing to take the children and arranged for trains to transport them from Prague to London. The transports continued until September 1, 1939. That day 250 children were already boarded on the train preparing to leave for London when they were stopped from leaving. Full war broke out that day as the Nazis moved into Poland, cutting off their escape route. The children who had been on that last train did not survive the Holocaust.

The 669 children he saved did survive. They now live all over the world, in England, the Czech Republic, the United States and Canada. They have children and grandchildren of their own now.

In all, there are over 5,000 people who are alive today because of the actions of one ordinary man who performed heroically in the extraordinary circumstances of the summer of 1939.

Among those who were rescued by Winton were:

Among those saved are the British film director Karel Reisz (The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Isadora, and Sweet Dreams), Canadian journalist and news correspondent for CBC, Joe Schlesinger (originally from Slovakia), Lord Alfred Dubs (a former Minister in the Blair Cabinet), Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines (a patron of the arts whose father, Rudolf Fleischmann, saved Thomas Mann from the Nazis), Dagmar Símová (a cousin of the former U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright), Tom Schrecker, (a Reader’s Digest manager), Hugo Marom (a famous aviation consultant, and one of the founders of the Israeli Air Force), and Vera Gissing (author of Pearls of Childhood) and coauthor of Nicholas Winton and the Rescued Generation.

Sir Nicholas Winton Biography

Nicholas George Winton was born on May 19, 1909 in Britain. He is 99-years-old. Although his family origins were Jewish, his parents had converted to Christianity and he was baptized and raised as a Christian. He was a stockbroker by trade and resides in Maidenhead in Berkshire.

Following the end of his operation Czech Kindertransport, Winton returned to England and joined the Royal Airforce. He retired early and has devoted his life to humanitarian work.

He never told anyone about what he had done in the season leading up to the outbreak of the war in Europe. He has said that it wasn’t that he intentionally didn’t tell anyone, its just that he didn’t talk about it. His activities remained unknown until 1988 when he was about 80-years-old and his wife, Greta, found an old leather case in their attic that contained the documents and a scrapbook detailing what had happened. Since that time, he has been reunited with many of the children and their descendants who were part of his kindertransport.

He has never been designated a member of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem by Israel because he is not technically a ‘Gentile’. However, he received a letter of gratitude from former president of the State of Israel, Ezer Weizman. He is an Honorary Citizen of Prague. He was awarded the MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 1993 by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II and was awarded knighthood in the New Year’s honors list published on December 31, 2002. He was awarded the Order of T.G. Masary for his heroic achievement on October 28, 1998 by the then president of the Czech Republic.

Winton’s story has been the subject of films by Czech filmmaker Matej Mináč: All My Loved Ones (1999) and the award winning Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good (2002).

Sir Nicholas Winton has been nominated by the Czech government for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize.

Sir Nicholas Winton – Video