I was running through my Facebook feed when I paused to watch a video clip. It was of someone I’d not heard of sitting in a studio audience. The scene cuts to a conversation with a woman who as a child had been saved from the holocaust. The scene cuts back to the studio audience, where the woman is sitting. They then say the man who was responsible for saving her life was sitting next to her. She kisses him and then his hands. He begins to wipe tears. They then ask all those present who’d been saved by him to stand. Some two dozen do.
His name was Nicholas Winton.
In 1938, Winton, a 29 year old English banker and stockbroker cancels a scheduled skiing vacation to respond to the urging of his friend Martin Blake. As a result of Kristalnacht, the House of Commons had approved a measure allowing Jewish children to come to England. In Prague Winton set up an office in his hotel and began organizing the escape.
He managed to bring 669 children to Britain before the war overtook the project.
As the years passed he never spoke of what had happened until his daughter stumbled upon a scrapbook that contained lists of all the children, as well as addresses for where they’d been placed.
This began the public acknowledgements.
Winton was tricked into going to the BBC television program That’s Life as a member of the audience. That’s where the scene I saw took place.
He is still alive. Now well past one hundred, he clearly has enjoyed the acknowledgments, although he continues to insist most of the credit should go to Martin Blake and others. And, it seems he is as much haunted by the children he lost, some 260 were in process when the Nazis closed him down, nearly all of whom died in the death camps. I didn’t find his thoughts on the subject, but I know how haunted I am as well by the parents who seeing the doom gathering sent their children out into the night with these strangers, hoping desperately.
Of course that’s part of the good. It’s never enough.
It is everything.