One of the world's heroes died today at the age of 106.
British man Sir Nicholas Winton wasn't a career activist: he was a stockbroker, brought to Czechoslovakia in 1938 by a friend. The next year, when it became clear Germany would annex the entire country, Winton turned his hotel room into a sort of unauthorized immigration office. He raised enough money for about 670 children to be transported to the UK, where he was from, and raised by British families. He ended up saving the lives of several hundred children, many of them Jews.
Winton's heroism wasn't public knowledge for decades. According to the US Holocaust Museum, it only became widely known after 1988, when Winton's wife happened upon a notebook with photos and names of the children. That year, Winton went on the British television show That's Life, which reunited Winton with some of the now-grown children that he'd saved from the Holocaust. The footage is just extraordinary:
Winton, in the video, is genuinely surprised to be see these adults he'd helped save decades earlier — he didn't know the show was planning to do this — and, overwhelmed, tears up.
"It was an amazing surprise, but no more so than to Mr. Winton who had come to the studio, totally unprepared that he was going to be confronted by us," Milena Grenfell-Baines, a woman rescued by Winton, told the BBC.
"I just thought it was amazing that a single human being could save 669 children and nobody knew about it," Ruth Halova, another one, added.
"Nicky, I am so proud to be one of your very many children."
If you want to learn more about Winton's story, this interview with the BBC — taped not long before his death — is excellent: