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What Happens When You See the Results of a Good Deed You’ve Done

John Burger - published on 06/28/14 - updated on 06/08/17

The moment Nicholas Winton realized he was surrounded by the children he had saved.

In December 1938, a young London stockbroker named Nicholas Winton was headed off to a ski vacation in Switzerland. A phone call at the last moment changed his destination–and the lives of thousands of people.

Winton heard about the plight of refugees in Czechoslovakia, where the Nazis had recently taken over the Sudetenland. He decided to go there rather than skiing, and ended up leading a small but effective evacuation by train of 669  children–mostly Jewish–to Britain and other countries.

By the time World War II started, in September 1939, the children were living with host families, thanks to Winton’s efforts. Most of their families and contemporaries who remained in Czechoslovakia would be killed in the war or in concentration camps.

Winton never boasted of his accomplishments, and it was only by chance that his wife discovered the list of the children in the attic of their home in England. Word got out, and in 1988, the BBC arranged to have Winton attend a TV broadcast. Unknown to him, they also invited a number of the children he had rescued. Here is a clip from that broadcast.

Queen Elizabeth knighted Winton in 2002. He’s come to be known as the “British Schindler.”

Recently, Sir Nicholas was feted in Czechoslovakia, accompanied by many of those he’d rescued, now known as “Nicky’s Children.” The reason for the party? Sir Nicholas was celebrating his 105th birthday.

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World War II
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