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article imageNo small risk: The man who saved 669 children from the Nazis

By Megan Hamilton     Oct 30, 2014 in World
Prague - It was no simple act of kindness. Instead, it was an act of quiet determination and selfless bravery by Sir Nicholas Winton that saved the lives of 669 children in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939.
More than 70 years later, the Czech Republic decided to say "Thank you" in the best way it knew how — by honoring Sir Nicholas with the Order of the White Lion. The award was presented to him by Milos Zeman, president of the Czech Republic, in a ceremony at Prague Castle on Tuesday.
The story began when a young Nicholas Winton, 29, was planning his Christmas holiday in 1938. The former stockbroker from Hampstead had planned a vacation in Switzerland when he heard about the plight of refugee children in war-torn Czechoslovakia. So he canceled his holiday and visited a friend in Prague to see if what he'd read was true, according to The Independent.
While there, he hatched a plan to save the kids, many of whom were Jewish and were facing a grim future in concentration camps, and undoubtedly, certain death in some cases.
A young Nicholas Winton with some of children he rescued.
A young Nicholas Winton with some of children he rescued.
Youtube screenshot
In 1939, on eight separate occasions, Sir Nicholas made arrangements for the children to be transported on the Czech 'kindertransport' train. He acquired travel permits for all of the kids, arranged for foster homes, and convinced the Germans to allow the children to leave.
Because he was from a Jewish-German family, he told the BBC that he was well aware of the gravity of the situation.
"I knew better than most, and certainly better than the politicians, what was going on in Germany," he told BBC Radio 4. "We had staying with us people who were refugees from Germany at that time. Some who knew they were in danger of their lives."
When he stepped in, he said he wasn't afraid to help.
"There was no personal fear involved," he told the BBC.
He knew the situation was dire and that many kids would have died if he hadn't stepped in, adding "That's what was happening all over Europe."
Tragically, the ninth and largest train — transporting 250 children — was prevented from leaving by the outbreak of World War Two. It's believed that none of these children survived.
In the passage of time afterwards, Sir Nicholas kept quiet about it for 50 years. His heroic acts were discovered by his wife when she found a scrapbook he'd kept, The Independent reports.
As a result of his bravery, he has received several awards, including an MBE, and a Pride of Britain lifetime award. He's even had a small planet named after him.
Upon receiving his award in Prague, he said:
"I thank the British people for making room for them, to accept them, and of course the enormous help given by so many of the Czechs who at that time were doing what they could to fight the Germans and to try to get the children out."
"In that respect, I was of some help and this is the result."
At age 105, Sir Nicholas knows he has outlived some of people he rescued, but fortunately, many of the survivors were at the ceremony to greet him.
"I want to thank you all for this enormous expression of thanks for something which happened to me nearly 100 years ago — and 100 years is a heck of a long time," he said. "I am delighted that so many of the children are still about and are here to thank me."
Knighted by the Queen in March 2003, he was reunited with hundreds of the people he saved, along with 5,000 of their descendants at a gathering for the "Winton children," the BBC reported.
He has been called "The British Schindler," in reference to German businessman Oskar Schindler, whose efforts to save Jewish people were dramatized in the film "Schindler's List."
More about Sir Nicholas Winton, The man who saved children, the man who saved children from the nazis, the bbc, The independent
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