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Pocketmags Digital Magazines
Pocketmags Digital Magazines

The British Schindler

Nicholas Winton always claimed he “wasn’t heroic”, yet it was down to his business sense and compassion that 669 children were swept out of Prague to safety before the Nazis arrived, writes Gavin Mortimer
Nicholas Winton carries one of the many children he helped to save, placing them with foster families when they arrived in Britain

One of the most popular television programmes of the 1980s was BBC magazine show That’s Life. It regularly pulled in more than 20 million viewers each week, but few episodes were as powerful as the one broadcast on 27 February 1988.

Many Czechoslovakians fled from the Sudetenland in the wake of the Nazi occupation, leaving their homes for a life of poverty and uncertainty

Near the end of the show, host Esther Rantzen produced a scrapbook that listed the names of hundreds of mostly Jewish children brought to Britain from Czechoslovakia in 1939, from under the noses of the Nazis. One of the names was Vera Diamant, a ten-year-old whose parents had arranged for her and an older sister to start a new life in Britain. Vera was in the studio audience, and as the camera picked her out, viewers saw an old man next to her. Neither he nor Vera knew they had been ‘set up’ by That’s Life. Amid gasps from the audience, Rantzen announced that the old man was called Nicholas Winton, and that 49 years earlier he had been instrumental in saving the life of Vera and hundreds of other children. The two embraced and as Winton wiped a tear from his eye, Vera leaned in and whispered “thank you”.

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About BBC History Revealed Magazine

The 12th century can be seen as a pivotal moment in Japanese history, an era which saw beginning of the ascendancy of one of history’s most iconic warrior classes: the samurai. This month we explore the dramatic civil war that heralded their rise to power – and the formation of the first shōgunate. Plus: The black market for medieval relics, why the Wall St Crash of 1929 shook the world, how British humanitarian Nicholas Winton saved almost 700 children from the Nazis, the English pirate who inspired Captain Jack Sparrow, and more