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EDITIONS
 Tuesday, 31 December, 2002, 15:05 GMT
'Britain's Schindler' knighted
Sir Nicholas with one of the children he saved
Sir Nicholas saved children from concentration camps
A 93-year-old man who saved the lives of nearly 700 Jewish children by smuggling them out of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia is to receive a knighthood.

The chief people who will be delighted by this are the 'children' - mostly grandparents themselves now

Nicholas Winton

Nicholas Winton, a former Stock Exchange clerk from Maidenhead, Berkshire, was rewarded in the Queen's New Year Honours List published on Tuesday.

There are believed to be more than 5,000 "Winton children" descended from the 669 children he helped escape Prague for Britain in 1939.

His heroics earned him the nickname "Britain's Schindler" - a reference to German Oskar Schindler, who saved more than 1,000 Jews.

Sir Nicholas Winton
His actions were secret for 50 years
But his feat was secret for nearly 50 years, until a chance discovery by his wife Greta, who died three years ago.

She found an old leather briefcase in the attic containing lists of children and letters from their parents.

Sir Nicholas said: "I'm surprised to have been recognised for something I did 65 years ago.

"To be honest, I'm finding it all a little difficult and am somewhat embarrassed by all the fuss.

"The chief people who will be delighted by this are the 'children' - mostly grandparents themselves now.

"I have had calls today from many of them in this country and one in Prague."

Missing children

At the outbreak of the war, as a 30-year-old clerk at the London stock exchange, he visited Prague and helped in the refugee camps.

Concerned at the plight of the children, he set up an office in his hotel in Prague and parents came to him to register their children.

He persuaded the Home Office in London to issue visas, found foster families and a 50 guarantee for each child, plus money for transport.

In nine months, 669 children escaped on eight trains from Prague to London.

I just saw what was going on and did what I could to help

Nicholas Winton
A ninth train holding 250 children was to leave on 3 September, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany.

But it never left the station and the children were never seen again.

Sir Nicholas recently said: "We had 250 families waiting at Liverpool Street that day in vain.

"If the train had been a day earlier, it would have come through.

"Not a single one of those children was heard of again, which is an awful feeling."

'He saved my life'

Almost none of the parents of the rescued children survived the Nazi onslaught, which killed more than 15,000 Czech children.

Sir Nicholas once said: "I just saw what was going on and did what I could to help."

He added: "It was a lot of hard work, but it wasn't difficult."

Vera Gissing, one of the children saved by Sir Nicholas, and who wrote a biography and film about him, said recently: "I owe him my life and those of my children and grandchildren."

Oskar Schindler
Oskar Schindler's actions prompted a Hollywood film
The documentary film Nicholas J Winton - the Power of Good, was shown in September 2001 in Prague, where Sir Nicholas met 250 of those he saved.

At London's special screening, he was presented with a letter of tribute from Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Sir Nicholas was made an MBE in 1983 for his charitable work with the elderly, particularly the establishment of the Abbeyfield homes.

In October 1998 Vaclav Havel, the Czech president, awarded him the Order of TG Masaryk in a ceremony at Hradcany Castle.


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