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26. 6. 2008 13:36

June 26, 2008: Sir Nicholas Winton Received Honorary Plaque from Premier Mirek Topolánek

In the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, Premier Mirek Topolánek today met Sir Nicholas Winton, the man who saved 669 Jewish children from Czechoslovakia before WW II.

The guest received from the hands of Mirek Topolánek a Prime Minister’s plaque and from the Czech Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová an invitation to celebrate his 100th birthday in the Czech capital.

"All over the world there are five thousand people who are descendants of the so called Winton´s children," said Premier Topolánek. He went on to stress the special significance of presenting this exceptional story about human sacrifice to younger generations. "This story is well-known, I just wish it would get to our children, to our descendants," the Premier emphasized his message of pure humanity to future generations.

Sir Winton has received the distinction from the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic for his lifelong struggled for freedom and humanity. "I highly esteem an opportunity to meet such personalities as Nicholas Winton," added the Premier, speaking about his precious guest who becomes the seventh holder of the Prime Minister’s honorary plaque. "It is a great honour and event for me," responded Sir Nicholas Winton modestly.

During a brief meeting with journalists, the 99-year old British citizen recalled his first visit to Prague and stressed that even though the state of the contemporary world cannot be described as victory of good, he still remains optimistic. To believe in man and to keep one’s optimism - this is in Sir Winton´s opinion - the only possibility for living. Today’s visit by Nicholas Winton in Bohemia is his fourth since the event which affected thousands of human lives.

Sir Nicholas Winton (* May 19, 1909)

Nicholas Winton was born into a family of German-Jewish origin in England. His mother Barbara was the first girl in Germany to pass the equivalent of the GCE exam. In London, where the family settled in 1907 from Germany, to escape the growing anti-Semitic sentiments, its members did not like the style of life of émigré families. The Wertheimers (later Wintons) were expelled from the Jewish community. Even though Jewishness did not play a great part in the life of Barbara and the whole family, they never tried to deny their origin, describing it as “childishness and loss of time“.

As a stockbroker Winton saved in 1939 a total of 669 Czech Jewish children when he organized several train transports from Prague to London. For all the children he had to receive from the Germans permissions to leave and entry permits from the British side, he had to secure their reception in British families and pay for each child a bail of 50 pounds.

The last and largest transport was planned to leave Prague on September 3, 1939. But Hitler had already invaded Poland, World War II broke out and the borders were closed. All the children (there were 250 of them) who were supposed to leave in that transport eventually ended in Nazi concentration camps.

After the war Nicholas Winton returned to his job, devoting more and more of his time to charity, especially involving senior citizens. He never mentioned to anyobody his merits in saving the Czech Jewish children. His actions would have probably fallen into oblivion if his wife Grete had not found in 1988 a case in an attic containing documents with the lists of the children and letters from their parents.

Asked why he did not tell his wife about his saving mission, Nicholas Winton replied: “Well, every man has a secret he keeps from his wife“. Winton´s charges discovered who had saved their lives only fifty years later and thanked him - in the glare of public interest - in London in the presence of BBC cameras in 1988.

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