The story of “Britain’s Schindler”

The Story of Sir Nicholas Winton

The holocaust was a dark period in World history; fuelled, by hate, bigotry and the notion of racial superiority, the holocaust was the biggest state-sponsored, racially prejudiced mass genocide in Europe. Taking place during the second world war, Germany, under its fascist leader, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were responsible for taking the lives of close to 6 million Jews.

Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Germany during the Second World War began to fuel a propaganda campaign convincing the masses that the Aryan race was superior to the Jewish race. Subsequently, over the years that followed, attempts were made by the Schutzstaffel at the time, headed by Hitler to systematically torture and wipe out the Jews. The SS (Schutzstaffel) was the “a paramilitary force and instrument of terror of the Nazi Party in Nazi Germany, which emphasized a racist vision of “racial purity”, and antisemitism”. Jews were taken from all over Europe such as Poland, the Soviet Union, and Romania. 

The atrocities faced by the Jews were unspeakable, to say the least. Thousands of Jews were starved, hoarded like animals and taken to ghettos and concentration camps around Europe, a large proportion of them faced the grim fate of death. Millions were hoarded into gas chambers and killed while others died of disease, malnutrition, and medical neglect. Hundreds were even victims of human experiments. 

During the World War, however, despite the atrocities inflicted upon the Jews, there were a number of unsung heroes whose compassion came through even during those trying times. While names such as Oskar Schindler have over the years been acknowledged for their massive and unforgettable contributions during the war, Sir Nicholas Winton was a lesser-known British humanitarian who saved the lives of hundreds of Jews during the war, yet whose work went unknown even half a decade after the war. 

Sir Nicholas Winton was a British banker and humanitarian who is documented to have saved the lives of 669 Jewish children during the Second World War. Known as the British Schindler, Winton found massive camps of refugees living in horrific conditions. Due to the harsh “restrictions against Jewish immigration in the West”, the situation for Jews especially children remained dire. In the year 1938, however, the British became the exception to this. Running programs known as Kindertransport, Britain began “to admit unaccompanied Jewish children up to age 17 if they had a host family”. This system, however, was faulty, to say the least. While the lives of children hung in the balance, the system was fraught with dangers and evils such as “bribery, forgery, an avalanche of paperwork and a lot of money”. Sir Nicholas Winton, along with a few other friends, were committed to the cause of saving the lives of as many Jewish children as possible. While many of the children that were saved, never met their parents again, they were resettled in new families after massive bribes and documentation were put in place. While funding trickled in overtime from the citizens of Britain, a large proportion of the expense was borne by Sir Nicholas himself who spent his day working his job as a banker and his evenings saving the lives of innocent and helpless children. Documenting a small number of the many children he rescued, Sir Nicholas Winton’s contribution to saving such a large number fo lives went unknown, even to his wife until in the year 1998, when his wife found in her attic, a meticulously maintained record of all the children who Sir Nicholas Winton had saved during his lifetime. Sir Nicholas Winton once said, “Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and do some good”. World War II showed the world the extent of hatred, violence and bigotry that humans are capable of, but amidst this prejudice, the world also had the rare chance of witnessing the golden spectacle of compassion and solicitude that the human spirit is capable of.