Friday, 28 April 2017

Man saves 669 kids during Holocaust, has priceless reaction when they surprise him years later

Although history is filled with many dark chapters, sometimes people rise to the occasion and prove themselves in these tough situations. During World War II, European Jews saw their families broken up, their friends kidnapped and their neighbors turned against them. While Nazi rule created a dark atmosphere that fostered silence and intimidation throughout Europe, there were some people who resisted.

One such person was Nicholas Winton, a British stockbroker who risked his life to save Jewish children from what was then Czechoslovakia. All told, he was able to smuggle 669 children out of the country and safely into Britain, with some people dubbing him the “British Schindler.” Though Winton never claimed any serious credit for his actions, he did keep scrapbooks in his attic which had all the children’s information in them. The story was seemingly over—that is, until his wife found his scrapbooks in the attic.
By using the information in the books, Winton’s wife was able to arrange a truly special surprise for her husband. The moment was aired in a BBC series called “That’s Life,” a variety show which featured trenchant journalism, satire and sometimes light entertainment. Though Winton was in the audience for the show on one episode, it soon became clear something unusual was going on.
First, the producer of the show revealed that Winton had been sitting next to one of the children he saved the entire time. At this first revelation, he shed a few tears and received some applause. Still, the true surprise was yet to come. “Can I ask,” the producer says, “is there anyone in our audience tonight who owes their life to Nicholas Winton? If so, could you stand up please?” After a moment, everyone in the audience stands up and Winton is completely floored.

By using his own scrapbooks, the show’s producers had tracked down as many of the saved children as they could and reunited them for one truly special moment. Still, there were more honors to come in Winton’s life. In 2003, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth the second. In 2014, he was inducted into the Czech Order of the White Lion, the highest ranking military honor available. In 2015, he passed away at the age of 106.
What Winton’s story shows is that it takes individuals to change the world. In the face of huge challenges, sometimes the most radical thing to do is also the simplest: taking action on what we know to be right. Winton’s life seemed to be marked with this philosophy above all, as he wore a reminder of it on his finger into late age. The ring was given to him by children he saved, and was inscribed with a quote from the Talmud, the book of Jewish law. “Save one life, save the world,” it said. And we couldn’t agree more.
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