Accessibility links

Breaking News

'British Schindler' Dies At 106

Sir Nicholas Winton meets with evacuees from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia 70 years ago, at Liverpool Street Station, in London in 2009.

Nicholas Winton, a British citizen who saved hundreds of Jewish children in Prague from the Nazis in the run-up to World War II, has died at the age of 106, his family said July 1.

Son-in-law Stephen Watson said Winton died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital in Slough, west of London.

Born in London of German-Jewish parents, Winton travelled to Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia as a young employee of the London Stock Exchange.

It was there that he organized trains that transported 669 children, most of them Jews, to Britain in 1939, saving them from concentration camps and near-certain death.

An additional train was set to leave on September 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany, but the borders were already sealed. None of the 250 children were seen again. All are believed to have perished in the Holocaust.

Winton's efforts earned him the nickname "English Schindler" in reference to Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist who rescued hundreds of Polish Jews during the war.

"A good man, Sir Nicholas Winton, has passed away. He will remain forever a symbol of courage, deep humanity and incredible modesty," Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Twitter.

President Milos Zeman, who last year presented Winton with the Order of The White Lion, tweeted: "He was a man I admired for his courage."

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "The world has lost a great man. We must never forget Sir Nicholas Winton's humanity in saving so many children from the Holocaust."

Winton kept quiet about his mission for 50 years until his wife found evidence of it in their attic.

He was knighted in 2003, and his Czech supporters repeatedly petitioned for him to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.

"He was incredibly unique in that he didn't tell anyone for such a long time" about his wartime activities, said Tomas Kraus, head of the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities.

"He wasn't the only one, there were more such personalities. In his case, it's the modesty that's so unique. He considered it an unimportant episode in his life."

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks praised him as a "giant of moral courage".

"Our sages said that saving a life is like saving a universe. Sir Nicholas saved hundreds of universes," Sacks said, adding: "he will be mourned by Jewish people around the world."

Home Secretary Theresa May, Winton's local Member of Parliament, called him "an enduring example of the difference that good people can make even in the darkest of times."

Based on reporting by AFP and dpa