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Second World War Veteran Honored at the German Embassy in London

August 05th, 2014
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The German Embassy in London honors a British humanitarian who rescued hundreds of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938


News from Berlin - In the UK he is known as the “British Schindler”, a lofty moniker, but one that is no doubt deserved. Sir Nicholas George Winton, a British humanitarian, organized the rescue of 669 children mostly of Jewish origin from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1938.

Born in 1909 in Hampstead, London, Sir Nicholas is the son of German Jewish parents who had immigrated two years earlier. Close to the Christmas of 1938, he was asked by a friend to help with Jewish welfare organisations in Prague. Whilst there, he single-handedly formed an organisation with the intention of helping persecuted Jewish families. After the Kristallnacht – a pogrom against Jews throughout Germany and Austria earlier that year, the British government had voted to accept any refugees under 17 who had a place to stay in Britain and a 50 pounds warranty for their potential return.

Sir Nicholas took advantage of the newly accepted policy and managed to transport 669 children to Britain and find them places to stay. Most of of these children’s parents perished in concentration camps such as Auschwitz.

One of the biggest obstacles in this endeavour was the Netherlands, which after the Kristallnacht had prohibited any entry of refugees in the country and returned anyone discovered by border guards trying to gain entry. This campaign was successful thanks to the permission and guarantees Winton had obtained from Britain. Unfortunately the last group of 250 children could not get to Britain successfully. Scheduled to leave Prague on September 1, 1939, the news of Hitler’s invasion of Poland halted the trip.

None of this was widely known until Winton’s wife found a detailed account of the humanitarian campaign in the family attic in 1988. Later the BBC documentary That’s Life revealed his extensive work.

In a ceremony at the embassy on August 2nd, the German ambassador to Britain, Peter Ammon, awarded the 105-year-old humanitarian with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

News from Berlin – Berlin Global