Nicholas Winton: Memorial service for Holocaust hero – BBC News

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Image caption Sir Nicholas Winton organised the “Kindertransport” of children from Czechoslovakia

A memorial service will be held later for Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued hundreds of children from the Holocaust in the months before World War Two.

The service at London’s Guildhall will be attended by 400 people, including 28 of those he saved, and Czech, Slovak and UK government representatives.

Sir Nicholas organised the “Kindertransport” in which 669 mostly Jewish children came to Britain by train from Czechoslovakia in 1939.

He died on 1 July last year aged 106.

The Kindertransport became public knowledge on BBC TV show That’s Life in 1988 when presenter Esther Rantzen reunited some of those saved with the person who helped them escape the Nazis.

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Many of the children went on to have their own families and the number currently alive as a result of the Kindertransport is believed to be about 7,000.

Saved children and their families, making a total of about 130, have travelled from around the world to go to the service.

Those attending include Lord Alfred Dubs, Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines and the Rev John Fieldsend, who were all part of the Kindertransport, and representatives from the German and Swedish embassies.

The service will have contributions from Lord Dubs, Dame Esther Rantzen, four other of the children, and former Czech ambassador Michael Zantovsky.

A spokesman for the service said: “The memorial service provides an opportunity for the many hundreds of people around the world who owe their lives to Sir Nicholas, or who have been inspired by him, to celebrate his achievements and to pay their respects to a British citizen who helped to make the world a better place.”

A memorial concert will take place on Friday at St John’s Smith Square in central London, including readings by actors Jason Isaacs and Rupert Graves and music from cellist Alexander Baillie, raising funds for current child refugees.

The Briton who saved children from the Holocaust

Image copyright Winton Family/PA
Image caption Nicholas Winton with one of the Czech refugees
  • Sir Nicholas was born Nicholas Wertheimer in 1909 to Jewish parents
  • By 1938 he was a young stockbroker in London
  • He dropped everything to go to Prague to help Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi occupation
  • Sir Nicholas organised foster families for Jewish children in Britain, placing adverts in newspapers
  • The 669 children travelled on eight trains across four countries
  • Sir Nicholas’s team persuaded British custom officials to allow all the children in despite incomplete documentation

How did one Englishman save 669 children from the Holocaust?

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One of the Kindertransport children, Hana Usaac-Kleiner, now 88, told the BBC that Nicholas Winton saved their lives.

She said: “He was one of the few on the team in Prague who were well-enough informed about what was happening in Germany and Austria to realise that the danger to Jewish people was imminent.”

Another, Kurt Taussig, 92, said he had known nothing about Nicholas Winton until the Esther Rantzen show.

“From that moment on, he became the nearest thing to God himself by what he had done,” he said. “We realised that he had done something quite miraculous. Nobody will ever do it again.

“He himself was shy and polite and didn’t want any fuss, didn’t want any bother. In fact he was pleading to be left alone and that’s why he never spoke about his doings all these years. It was only by accident it was discovered.”

Sir Nicholas continued community work in later life in Maidenhead, Berkshire.

His surviving children Nick and Barbara Winton speak at events around the world about how one person can change lives.

Barbara Winton wrote his biography If It’s Not Impossible, the title of which is taken from his motto: “If something is not impossible there must be a way of doing it.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-36325187

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