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Nicholas Winton: A ray of active goodness in a splintered world


London, Ankunft jüdische Flüchtlinge

By Gaurav Sharma

Reflecting with fond appreciation the courageous efforts of a Nazi party worker to rescue more than a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees from the horrific barbarity of the Holocaust, virtually every viewer of Schindler’s List remains firmly etched to the edge of his seat.

The Hollywood classic immortalized Oskar Schindler by tracing his transformation from a German spy to a humanitarian industrialist.

Although few and far between, history has always been carefully moulded by the confidential craft of Schindler like heroics.

Nicholas Winton, dubbed as the British Schindler, echoed the same bold spirit while rescuing more than 650 children in the erstwhile Czechoslovakia from the terror of the brutal Nazis.

Nicky’s Children

Winton died this week, but not before sheltering, enlivening and fathering the lives of the orphaned Holocaust children.

Comparing with the massacre of 6 million Jews by the Nazis, Winton’s contribution at first glance might not make such a big bang impression.

However, the true worth of Winton’s rescue effort can be fathomed when one witnesses the ballooning of the few hundreds saved in 1939 into a bulky lot of 6,000 people, fondly remembered as ‘Nicky’s Children’.

Much like other selfless humanists, Winton chose not to make a big fuss about his humanitarian expedition.

Had it not been for his wife’s discovery of the dusty briefcase containing the scrapbook which held the names and families of the twice born children, Winton’s philanthropic crusades would have been buried unnoticed.

Turn of Direction, Change of Heart

Professionally, Winton worked at a number of banks as a volunteer, earned a banking qualification from France and later became a stockbroker with the London Stock exchange.

During that period, Winton started associating himself with the left wing circle, morphing into an ardent socialist who was increasingly concerned about the dangers posed by Nazism.

In December 1938–on the eve of the Second World War–Winton had first hand experience of the Nazi threat.

Moving at the behest of his friend Martin Blake, who was incidentally an associate of British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, Winton decided to cancel his Christmas skiing plans and instead decided to help Jewish families desperate to leave Czechoslovakia.

Seeing the wretched plight of throngs of people clamped in massive camps, Winton’s heart turned inside out. Instead of taking the official route of writing to the government, he had the vision to foresee the immediate necessity of taking personal measures.

Sole Strivings

Winton’s rescue efforts involved arduous personal strivings encompassing a plethora of activities.

He commissioned nine trains to send the children away from Czechoslovakia. All this required bribing officials, indulging in forgery apart from making painstaking efforts to contact and arrange donations from families looking for their children.

An impressive eight out of the nine trains were successful in transferring children through Germany to Britain.

Moreover, by forming crucial contacts with the German soldiers, Winton was able to advertise for foster homes in newspapers and also organized residency permits from the UK immigration office.

Relentless Altruism

In spite of contributing so much to the welfare of those caught in the mesh of Nazi brutality, Winton shunned away attempts to dub his efforts as something special.

Winton’s altruistic drive continued even after he came back to Britain, where he set up the Mencap Association to help families with differently abled children.

He also established Abbeyfield Homes, an old age home and another establishment catering to the elderly needs, apart from being an active member of the Rotary International.

In a world splintered by sectarian and civil conflicts– torn apart by Islamic State terrorism in the Middle East, sustained by the utter failure of bureaucratic intervention and brainwashing through patriotism propaganda–individual like Nicholas Winton are shining stars.

Shouting slogans of goodness while being ensconced in a blanket of household comfort is easy . Pursuing active goodness mirroring Winton is hard. Yet, it is the need of the hour.

Next Story

Humanitarian Issues to Figure Prominently At The World Economic Forum

The head of the U.N. Children’s Fund, Henrietta Fore will champion the needs of children and young people who are caught up in humanitarian crises

World Economic Forum
People walk up stairs at the congress center where the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum 2019, WEF, take place in Davos, Jan. 20, 2019. VOA

Heads of U.N. and international aid agencies will use the World Economic Forum’s influential platform to present humanitarian and human rights issues on behalf of millions of people caught in conflict, poverty and natural disasters. The Forum begins its annual weeklong meeting in the plush Swiss Alpine resort of Davos on Monday.

The World Economic Forum is best known for the many high-powered government and business leaders who make the annual pilgrimage to Davos to acquire lucrative deals and shape geopolitical events.

But the annual event also presents a robust humanitarian agenda. This year, the Forum, World Bank and International Committee of the Red Cross will launch a humanitarian Investing Initiative. The aim is to seek new solutions for protracted humanitarian crises by moving from short-term to long-term funding to support fragile communities.

United Nations aid agencies will feature prominently during the week-long meeting. The World Food Program’s executive director, David Beasley, will co-host events, such as ‘conflict and hunger’ and ‘the use of digital technology in the humanitarian sector.’

World Economic Forum
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum holds the meeting’s manifesto as he addresses a news conference ahead of the Davos annual meeting in Cologny near Geneva. VOA

Global Tensions

WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel says the group will be seeking support for its operations. He says many of the companies attending Davos understand that investments in food security are fundamental to business success.

“It saves lives and builds stronger markets around the world. In fact, it can increase GDPs by up to 16.5 percent and a person’s lifetime earnings by 46 percent,” he said.

With more than 3,000 of the world’s movers and shakers from 110 countries present, aid agencies see the Forum as a valuable opportunity to strengthen relationships with world leaders and keep their life-saving missions on the world’s agenda.

World Economic Forum
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 5, 2018. VOA

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet will be attending events on a wide range of topics. Her spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, says these include LGBTI or Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex standards in businesses, and human rights and democracy in a changing world.

“A couple of events on women’s rights as human rights and female leadership. The importance of women playing a role in global affairs by creating a new architecture that allows them to fully participate as leaders and shapers,” she said.

Also Read: The World Economic Forum To Discuss Globalization, Climate Change

The head of the U.N. Children’s Fund, Henrietta Fore will champion the needs of children and young people who are caught up in humanitarian crises or are being left behind because of extreme poverty and lack of development.

U.N. Development Program Administrator, Achim Steiner will seek to raise $100 million from Davos’ wealthy clientele to protect wild animals and their habitats. (VOA)