Altruism: Stockbroker Sir Nicholas Winton and the Children of the Holocaust

"Sir Nicholas Winton", Picture of Winton rescuing children, BBC, Fair Use.

Sir Nicholas Winton, a young stockbroker in London, was altruistic and courageous in the early 1900s as he helped many children to escape the coming Holocaust. Even though the punishment for helping someone was instant death, to the helper and his or her whole family, virtually no one knows of the astonishing individuals, groups, villages and one entire country who saved hundreds of thousands of persecuted people.

Nicholas Winton represents just one of those stories.

Never telling his wife what he did, for over fifty years after the war, Winton was the exception as the violence against the Jewish community inspired him to organize and rescue children from the Nazis during the time of the Holocaust. His altruistic efforts also allowed him to see thousands of descendants of those whose lives he had saved.

Winton’s altruistic efforts in 1938-1939 began when he started a rescue organization that brought approximately 669 children, mostly Jewish, from Czechoslovakia to safety in Great Britain before the outbreak of World War II. During this same year, he met and traveled with Martin Blake, a friend and instructional master at the Westminster School in London, as an associate of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia.

It was during this visit that he met Doreen Wariner, a friend of Blake, who arranged for Winton to visit refugee camps. This exposed him to the violence against the Jewish community in Germany and Austria during the Kristallnacht riots in November of 1938.

After hearing of the efforts of Jewish agencies in Britain to rescue over 10,000 German and Austrian Jewish children, on the so-called Kindertransport, Winton began a similar rescue operation for children imperiled by the impending German dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in March 1939. Winton also used the name of the British Committee for Refugees Czechoslovakia to organize and accept applications from parents seeking a safe haven for their children.

The altruistic efforts continued in London where Winton raised money to fund the transport of children and the 50-pound per child guarantee (demanded by the British government) to fund a child’s departure to Britain. He also found British families willing to care for the refugees, saving them from almost certain death.

A total of eight trains was organized and left Prague, and other forms of transport were setup from Vienna to enhance his efforts to save children. All of these efforts were in addition to Winton working at his job during the day, while late afternoons and evenings were devoted to his rescue efforts. In addition, Winton battled bureaucracy at both ends, and persuaded British custom officials to allow all the children in despite incomplete documentation.

Although the rescue activities ceased when Germany invaded Poland and Britain declared war on Germany in early September 1939, Winton did not stop. He went on to create a scrapbook of his efforts that remained virtually unknown until 1988. At this time, his wife found the scrapbook and became aware of all the children he had helped.

Recognition of Winton’s humanitarian efforts include being honored by the former president of the State of Israel. He was made an honorary citizen of Prague, in the independent Czech Republic, and received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for his services to humanity (along with a host of other awards) before his death in 2015.

Original Release: May 08, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Apr 09, 2019

1) Nick and Barbara WInton, Sir Nicholas Winton, Nicholas Winton Home Page, May/21/2016, May/07/2016, http://www.nicholaswinton.com/
2) Holocaust Memorial Museum, Nicholas Winton and the rescue of children from Czechoslovakia, Holocaust Encyclopedia, Jan/29/2016, May/07/2016, https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007780

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"Altruism: Stockbroker Sir Nicholas Winton and the Children of the Holocaust" AwesomeStories.com. May 08, 2016. Dec 12, 2019.
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