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Sir Nicholas Winton Is Known As The British Schindler After He Saved 669 Jewish Children's Lives

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Sir Nicholas Winton Is Known As The British Schindler After He Saved 669 Jewish Children's Lives

The Holocaust was one of the most heinous crimes in world history and Holocaust Memorial Day, which is today, is held annually in honour of the millions of people slaughtered by the Nazis.

Some six million European Jews - approximately two-thirds of the Jewish population of Europe - and an untold number of Poles, Roma (gypsies), prisoners of war, homosexuals and disabled people were killed under Adolf Hitler's rule.

But beneath that dark cloud of hatred, there are a few shards of light. The most famous one is the tale of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist and member of the Nazi Party, who saved the lives of approximately 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them at his enamelware and ammunitions factories.

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His story was turned into a book of historical fiction by Thomas Keneally called Schindler's Ark and was later adapted by Stephen Spielberg into the 1993 movie Schindler's List, which won a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture.

A lesser known hero is Sir Nicholas Winton, often referred to as the British Schindler after he saved the lives of 669 mainly Jewish children.

He did so on the eve of World War II by finding homes for the children and arranging their safe transportation to Britain in an operation that became known as the Czech Kindertransport (children transportation).

Sir Nicholas Winton in 2002. Credit: PA
Sir Nicholas Winton in 2002. Credit: PA
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Sir Nicholas, who was knighted in 2003, told few people about what he had done, however, and it was only in 1988 that his efforts became known on a wider scale, after his wife found a scrapbook in their attic that contained lists of the children, their parents' names and the information of the families that had taken them in.

His wife gave the scrapbook to Holocaust researcher Elisabeth Maxwell - wife of media magnate Robert Maxwell - and letters were sent out to each of the addresses contained within it. Eighty of the children that Sir Nicholas had saved were found.

In February 1988. Sir Nicholas was invited onto an episode of BBC programme That's Life! as an audience member. He was unknowingly sitting amongst a large number of those children, and when host Esther Rantzen asked if anybody in the audience owed their lives to Sir Nicholas, more than two dozen stood up.

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It's an incredibly moving moment, one which reminds us that, despite all the evil in the world, there are still those who do their best to help others as best they can.

Sir Nicholas died on July 1 2015 aged 106. The previous year he had been awarded the Order Of The White Lion (1st Class), the highest honour of the Czech Republic. He received his knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for "services to humanity, in saving Jewish children from Nazi Germany occupied Czechoslovakia."

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: Inspirational, History, World War II

Mischa Pearlmen
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