Nicholas Winton Has Died Aged 106

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Scepticalscribe, Jul 1, 2015.

  1. Scepticalscribe, Jul 1, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015

    Scepticalscribe Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    #1
    Nicholas Winton RIP Aged 106:

    There are 'celebrities' - whose superficial lives are tracked and whose every witless utterance reported - and there are genuine heroes, individuals whose courage, wit, intelligence, integrity and humanity mark their passage through life, and who react, with astonished - and sometimes almost bewildered embarrassment - when lauded and praised for what they had done.

    I had first read about Nicholas Winton some years ago, and was absolutely awestruck. The reports of his death today made me return to read a bit more about him and to post this.

    The short version is that he was described (with justice) as Britain's 'Oskar Schindler'.

    This was a man, who, as a young stockbroker, with an excellent job in London, interrupted what would have been a skiing holiday in Switzerland in early 1939 to answer the summons of a friend who had contacted him and asked him to travel to Prague, in order to try to help arrange the rescue of Jewish children from an increasingly desperate and dangerous place.

    At the time, Prague was the capital of the truncated remains of Czechoslovakia (the Sudetenland had been allocated to Nazi Germany the previous autumn). By March 1939 Prague - and the rest of Czechoslovakia - had been annexed by Nazi Germany.

    Between March 1939 and September 1939, when the Second World War started, Nicholas Winton, with a mixture of charm, bribes, organisational ability, forgery, pressure, net-working, chutpaz, courage, bloodymindedness and sheer class as a human being, successfully arranged the safe passage of eight train loads of Jewish youngsters - a total of 669 kids - across the continent of Europe to safety and sanctuary in the UK where he had arranged for them to stay with host families.

    Tragically, the last train, the ninth, with 250 children, set out on September 1, 1939, and disappeared from the records when German state borders were closed the same day as the war had started. None of those children survived, - they were murdered in the death camps - and the families of most of the other youngsters who had successfully already arrived in the UK suffered a similar fate.

    Nicholas Winton himself was characteristically modest about his achievements, - "this was a period of nine months in a life of over ninety years" he remarked years later - and had never spoken of them until his wife found out about it - by accident, on discovering his meticulous scrapbook in their attic - half a century later in 1988.

    A banker with a social conscience, a first rate fencer, (he and his brother, skilled fencers both, have a competition fencing cup named after them), an ambulance driver at Dunkirk, and, later, an RAF officer (during the Second World War), multi lingual, modest, decent, highly intelligent, somewhat irascible, and possessed of phenomenal moral and physical courage, this is what a true hero looks like.

    His death - at the age of 106 - was announced today. RIP.


     
  2. JamesMike macrumors demi-god

    JamesMike

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    #2
    There was a TV special on him, and your right he was very self-effacing.
     
  3. Scepticalscribe, Jul 1, 2015
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2015

    Scepticalscribe thread starter Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    Well, as a reminder, I just watched an astonishing - and rather moving - half hour long interview with him which was filmed last year, in 2014, when Nicholas Winton was 105. The BBC's Steven Sackur - who was clearly struggling to control his own emotions throughout - conducted the interview which was made as part of the BBC's 'Hardtalk' series.

    Nicholas Winton was as awesome, articulate, irascible, reserved, gloomily independent - and wry and reluctant - a witness to his own life story as one might expect. With characteristic understated generosity, he insisted that others (he mentioned his mother who played a large role in helping to rescue
    the children) deserved at least as much of the credit for the achievements that have (rightly) been attributed to his stubborn tenacious courage.

    Towards the end, there was a marvellous exchange between them. When it emerged (in reluctant answer to a carefully framed question) that despite his own Jewish heritage, and Christian upbringing, that Nicholas Winton hadn't believed in any divine authority for decades and decades (since WW2), the stupefied Steven Sackur asked him to clarify what had motivated him as it was clear that faith hadn't. (After the war, a successful banker, Winton had worked with refugees, raised funds for mental illness, and for the elderly, among countless other unnamed charitable activities).

    By way of response, Nicholas Winton narrowed his eyes, pursed his lips, thought a minute, and finally, grudgingly, ground out one word between gritted teeth: 'Ethics'. Stunned, Sackur asked what he meant by that. With a flash of impatient irritation (Winton must have been formidable as a young man) Nicholas Winton snapped "What do you understand by ethics?" Sackur stammered a reply 'Er, values, notions, beliefs'. Impatient, and irked, Nicholas Winton cut across him and spat out: "Goodness, kindness, love, honesty, decency: Ethics - that is the standard of life." He drew breath, adding, more calmly,"I believe in ethics. Ethics," his voice softened, "In my life, I tried to preach an ethical existence".

    Magnificent. To use that American adjective, awesome.
     
  4. phrehdd macrumors 68040

    phrehdd

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    #4
    I am glad the OP told us all of this fine individual. We don't have many "heroes" these days of that caliber and certainly not leading this country (either party). May he RIP.
     
  5. aaronvan Suspended

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  6. sim667 macrumors 65816

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    Read about this last week.... Sad, but the man did a wonderful thing, and he had a bloody good innings too.
     
  7. Scepticalscribe thread starter Contributor

    Scepticalscribe

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    He did have 'a bloody good innings' but what I find fascinating is that the worldview and mindset which had motivated him as a young man continued to inform his ideals and actions for the rest of his life. That is extraordinary.

    In truth, I posted this because this is the sort of man, and the kind of lived life that I hugely admire, and greatly respect.

    You see so many witless and worthless celebrities written about - and lauded - including on these threads, that I thought to post this as a sort of attempt at effecting a bit of a countervailing balance.
     

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