Nicholas Winton, Man Who Saved Hundreds from Czechoslovakia Before WWII, Dies at 106

July 1st 2015

Sarah Gray

Nicholas Winton, known for nearly single-handedly rescuing over 650 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of World War II, died on Wednesday at the age of 106.

Winton, who was later known as "Britain's Schindler" (as in Oskar Schindler), convinced the British government to accept the refugees, worked to find families to take in the children, and brought 669 children to Britain before the war began. Had they stayed in Czechoslovakia, they most like would have died in the Holocaust. The first 20 arrived by plane, the rest arrived on eight different trains that carried the children from Prague through Germany, and eventually by ferry to Britain. (A train of 250 children never left the station the day that Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.)

For around 50 years, Winton did not speak of his work to save the children. The Associated Press reports that he did not tell his family until 1988 when his wife Grete found the documents in their home. After that, Winton's actions were documented by the BBC, acknowledged by then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, and in 2003 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

One of the surviving children Dave Lux​ recalls meeting Winton -- the man who saved his life -- for the first time. The first word out of his mouth was "why?" -- why did a man around the age of 30 -- who was a stock broker at the time -- decide to save children from a war zone? The answer was that after seeing panic in Czechoslovakia he felt he had no choice. "When I saw the panic of everyone trying to get out I felt compelled to do something for the children," Winton said according to Lux.

A "60 Minutes" special documented and celebrated his actions -- including a moment when the BBC orchestrated a reunion between a handful of Kindertransports -- children transported during the war -- that Winton had saved and Nicholas Winton himself.

Saving the children was not the only humanitarian action of Winton's life. He served in the Royal Air Force in WWII. He also worked for 40 years with Mencap a organization serving those with learning disabilities, and helped build homes for the elderly with the organization Abbeyfields.

Winton is survived by his daughter Barbara. Watch the beautiful "60 Minutes" segment below: