Sir Nicholas Winton Feted by Holocaust Memorial Center
Last night I shook hands with the son of one of my favorite heroes. The Holocaust Memorial Center in metro Detroit hosted Nick Winton, who gave a most inspiring presentation on the life of his father, Sir Nicholas Winton.
Sir Nicholas, who prefers to be called Nicky, was a 29-year-old London stockbroker who gave up a skiing holiday to visit Prague and witness firsthand the refugees who were fleeing Nazi tyranny. That visit led to his heroic deeds which enabled 669 children to escape.
Parents, desperate to save their children, sought his assistance and he established an organization to aid them. He worked for weeks to find homes for them and also to arrange safe passage to Britain. For years no one knew of Nicky’s efforts for these many children. An episode of the BBC television program “That’s Life!” aired in 1988 and many of the children met for the first time this humble, beautiful man who had saved their lives. A clip from that program was shown to the captivated audience last night as the son explained the profound effect on him to see his father wipe away tears when he met with his “other” children.
The trains left Prague and saved 669 souls, until Sept. 1, 1939, when the largest group of 250 children was scheduled to leave. Of course, on that day Hitler invaded Poland and the war had begun. Most of those lives, along with most of the families of the 669, were lost. Because of the determined effort of Nicky Winton and those who assisted him there were 669 saved. These “children” and their descendants number in the thousands and they have made their mark on the world in many different walks of life. The beautiful part of this story is that many have befriended Nicky and his family.
Honored guests at the Holocaust Memorial Center were several of the children saved in the Kindertransport efforts. Certainly many of the other guests were children of children saved. How thrilling it must have been for them to hear this story related.
It was thrilling for my daughter and me as well. We have been privileged and humbled to have met Sir Nicholas. He lives in Maidenhead (25 miles from London) and is now a spry 105 years of age. We have been guests in his home and have lunched with him at his favorite Maidenhead pub. When you leave his presence you feel you have left a true hero. He says he is NOT a hero but only a man who did what needed to be done. His motto, “If it’s not impossible then there must be a way to do it” served him and the 669 children he saved well.
The Mackinac Center first learned of Nicky when then-President Lawrence W. Reed met and interviewed him. For more of this remarkable story please read “The Difference One Can Make.”
The documentary, “Nicholas Winton: The Power of Good,” tells more of this incredible man and more recently, “Nicky’s Family” was recently released. Both are produced by writer-director Matej Minac and are narrated by Joe Schlesinger of CBC fame. He, too, has a personal view of Nicky and his goodness. Yes, he was one of the saved children. Nick Winton mentioned that he visited Joe in Toronto as he made his way to the Holocaust Memorial Center for his presentation.
A new book written by Nicky’s daughter, Barbara Winton, “If It’s Not Impossible…..The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton,” tells more of the remarkable story.
The Holocaust Memorial Center plays an important role in educating the public on the horrors of tyranny, but also on the ways people held themselves accountable and assisted those in need. School groups from all over Michigan are hosted each year so the children of this new generation become aware of the history of the Holocaust. I offer a sincere thank you to the Memorial Center for an inspiring evening and to Nick Winton who represents his father, and his story, so very well.