Posts Tagged ‘sir nicholas winton’

I am sharing this post by my friend and traveling companion Scott Durham, whom I spent a good deal of time with for three weeks on my summer trip this summer. We hung out on the back of the bus and were always up for exploring the towns after hours and discussing and processing our sometimes heavy days with our Holocaust tour work. Scott is still traveling in Europe. One thing I admired about him was his propensity to utter “why not?” Here he is below with one of the most well known rescuers, whose name is synonymous with the Kindertransports. 


London – Sir Nicholas Winton

05 Thursday Sep 2013

On the morning of Aug. 24, 2013 I walked to the Paddington Train Station in London and hopped a train to Maidenhead.  Once arriving in Maidenhead, I asked a woman if there was a bakery in the little town.  There I bought a fresh Apple Cake to go with some fine British Tea I purchased the day before.  I then flagged down a cab and headed to the home of Sir Nicholas Winton.

There is a good chance you have never heard of him.  He was born in 1909 (yep – that makes him 104 this year) and in 1938, at the age of 29, he was on his way to ski in the Alps when a friend asked him to help him in Prague.  Winton went to Prague and saw first hand the plight of the Jews there and begin to figure out ways to get Jewish Children from Prague into British homes.  He set up shop in a hotel/cafe right on Wenceslas Square.  A plaque is there today commemorating his work:ImageImageImage

During the next few months, Winton was able to help rescue 669 children who were then re-settled in Britain.  Most of the parents were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Then, Winton went on with his life.  In the 1980′s, his wife found the scrapbook that included all the names and travel plans, etc. of what became known as the Kindertransport.  A local television station invited Winton to a taping of a program about his work.  There, he was surprised to meet some of the grown children he helped save.  But the saved children were surprised too.  Before the scrapbook was found, they had never heard of Nicholas Winton either.  They had thought their parents were just smart enough to find a way to get them out before the Nazis invaded.  They never knew that people like Winton had helped save their lives.

I dare you to watch about a minute and a half of the video below and keep your eyes dry.  Watch starting at about 1:28 and go thru 3:00 (or watch the whole thing):

There is a new documentary about his work that came out this past year or so.  Here is the trailer:

So I was in the living room of this man’s house.  His daughter, Barbara, was there with us and she was instrumental in helping make this meeting happen.  I handed over my poor excuse of a gift (the tea and Apple Cake) and shook Sir Winton’s hand.  He is kind of tired of talking about his work back 70 years ago, so I tried not focus on that.  But somehow we started talking about an article recently written by one of the kids Winton saved named Joe Schlesinger.  The article is called “You Do Know, Right, The World Is Getting Better,” and you can find it here:


Winton wasn’t so sure if Schlesinger was right.  By the way, I hate calling him Winton.  I want to call him Nick or Nicky (and he made me feel so at home I feel I could).  But then part of me wants to call him Sir Winton.  I am not sure.

But anyways, Nicky remembered his parents time and about how much more difficult things were.  However, he remembered that people still did things for each other.  He told me about how they would put hay over the cobblestone streets if there was a sick person on the street to help dampen the sound of the horses and carts.

But today he sensed that we might have let the opportunity, with all the technology and wealth of the world, to create a utopia for everyone pass us by.

I asked him how we could maybe still create that utopia.  He talked about how people should live by a standard code of ethics.  He sees too many of our leaders and even every day people not doing so.  What is in the code of ethics, I asked: compromise, love, honor, goodness, decency, kindness, honesty, hard work, among others.  Winton thinks that this way of living transcends politics, generations, religions, etc.  I happen to agree.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I almost felt that Sir Nicholas Winton had challenged me to help teach this to our young people.  I am not sure if he intended to do this, but once again, he has helped inspire someone (me) to be a better person.  But he is so sharp of mind that I am pretty sure he meant to do this.

One thing that him and his daughter share is an overwhelming humbleness.  They both, while proud of what Winton has done and continues to do, acted like it still wasn’t that big of a deal.  In fact, Winton gives most of the credit for the Kindertransport to his colleagues Trevor Chadwick and Doreen Warriner.

I asked him how, in the end, people could be proud of their lives and he said just knowing, “that you did no harm.”  Wow.  Winton continued to help people throughout his life and I asked him why he continued to do it.  He said, “because I enjoy it.”

After a few hours and a few cups of coffee, I stood up to let the Wintons get on with their day.  But I was smiling for another week.  In fact, when I get a chance to tell people about my journey, this is always a highlight.  In fact, Winton’s name came up a lot one night in Bruges, Belgium (but that blog has yet to be written).

My visit with Sir Nicholas Winton was beyond pleasant.  But he has challenged and inspired me to do more.  Whether he knows it or not, Nicholas Winton is STILL making the world a better place, not necessarily for WHAT he did, but more so for simply WHO he is.


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