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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 16:27 GMT
UK's 'Schindler' awaits Nobel vote

Sir Nicholas Winton
Sir Nicholas was nominated for the prize by the Czech government

Nominations for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize close on Friday, and among the entrants is a 98-year-old Briton, Sir Nicholas Winton, who transported 700 Jewish children to the UK before WWII.

The BBC's Allan Little visited Prague to witness the legacy of a man known as the "British Schindler".

In a school room in southern Bohemia, a class of teenagers sit mesmerised by a film about a young Englishman who came to their country a long time ago and did something so remarkable - brave as well as honourable - that 70 years later they petitioned the authorities to rename their school.

It is, now, the Sir Nicholas Winton School.

In the spring of 1939, the young Nicholas Winton cancelled a skiing holiday in Switzerland and, at the urging of a friend, went to Prague instead.

The city was full of people who had fled their homes in the wake of the Nazi occupation of the Sudetenland.

Nicholas Winton was particularly shocked by the condition of the children: many of them he found living in squalid - and freezing - refugee camps.

NOBEL PRIZES
Nobel Peace Prize medal
Named after Swedish inventor and scholar Alfred Nobel
Nobel left instructions in his will to create the prizes
First awards were for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace
Nobel Prize for Economics was first awarded in 1969

He resolved to do something about it.

With a group of others he drew up a list of children whose parents would agree to send them to Britain until the emergency - however long it was to last - was over.

When his list was complete there were 5,000 names on it.

He lobbied the Home Office in London. They said he could bring as many children as he liked, provided he could find foster families for them, and provided they went home when it was safe to do so.

The Winton group then advertised for families. "It wasn't the ideal way to place children," he told me, 70 years later.

"But if someone wrote to say they could take, say, a girl aged seven, then we sent some pictures of girls aged seven and said 'choose one'.

"Not ideal, but it did work and it was quick."

Father's tears

He then organised a series of closed trains to take the children from Prague directly to Liverpool Street station in London.

Alicie Klimova was 11 in 1939. She took me back to the platform at Prague's Masaryk Station, where she last saw her parents two months before the outbreak of war.

Alicie Klimova
Alicie Klimova was on one of the Winton trains to England

"The platform was full of children and parents" she said. "My parents did their best to keep on smiling, telling me it was so exciting that I was going to England.

"But at midnight when the train pulled out, my father couldn't hold back his tears.

"I said 'Daddy don't cry - you'll disgrace me!' Of course I had no idea that we would never see each other again".

When Alicie went back to Prague in 1945 she found that both her parents had died in Auschwitz.

Lost contact

The transports continued through the summer of 1939. The last one was due to leave on 1 September - the day war broke out.

There were 250 children on board, but the train never left the station. Most of them died in the Holocaust.

RECENT PEACE PRIZE WINNERS
2007: Former US Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
2002: Jimmy Carter, former US president
2001: UN and Kofi Annan
1999: Medecins sans Frontieres
1998: John Hume and David Trimble

For 50 years Nicholas Winton, of Maidenhead in Berkshire, lost contact with the 670 children he had brought to Britain - and whose lives he had saved.

When he married he didn't even tell his wife what he had done.

Then, when he was almost 80, some of his children began to get in touch. He found that the original group had grown to more than 5,000.

"Normally events that happened a long time ago diminish in importance as time goes on," Sir Nicholas told me.

"This story is the opposite - it keeps on growing, because there are more and more people. They keep breeding, you see!"



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
One of the children rescued by Nicholas Winton



SEE ALSO
'British Schindler' remembers war
25 Jan 06 |  Berkshire
Honour for 'British Schindler'
26 Sep 02 |  UK News

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