Tributes paid to Hampstead-born ‘British Schindler’ Sir Nicholas Winton
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Tributes have poured in for Sir Nicholas Winton, who was called “Britain’s Schindler” for saving the lives of Jewish children during the Holocaust, after he died yesterday aged 106.
Sir Nicholas, who was born in Hampstead and lived in the area for many years, organised eight trains to carry 669 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to London in 1939, fearing they would otherwise be sent to concentration camps.
As the founder of the Czech Kindertransport operation, he helped to find foster families for the children once they arrived in England, but did not reveal his astonishing bravery for half a century, even to his wife.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “The world has lost a great man. We must never forget Sir Nicholas Winton’s humanity in saving so many children from the Holocaust.”
Former prime minister Gordon Brown said: “Nicholas Winton was a real hero of our times. Anyone who had the privilege of meeting him immediately felt admiration, respect and were in awe of his courage.
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“That courage led him to risk his life to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable people. His inspiration will live on.”
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Sir Nicholas had showed “absolute commitment to fellow humans”.
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Speaking about his first meeting with Sir Nicholas Winton more than 20 years ago, the Chief Rabbi said he “gave the impression that he was a bit over-awed by it all, as if to say: ‘Why are you making all this fuss about me?’”
He added: “He was animated by a natural humane generosity of spirit and respect. He genuinely regarded what he had done as nothing more than any decent human being would have undertaken in the circumstances.”
He said there were “thousands of descendants who owe their lives to him”, adding many had been “inspired by his actions” to engage in charity work.