If you did not already know about Nicholas Winton, who just passed away at the age of 106, please take a moment to read this article.
For me, the particular brand of heroism demonstrated by people like Winton has always been especially moving. It is the purest form of altruism — self-sacrifice for complete strangers, with no possible reward, no direct personal stake, no bonds of family or faith to serve as motivation. Every one of us would hope to demonstrate the same courage and humanity in similar circumstances, and yet so few of us pass the test when it comes.
Two years ago, together with my mother and brothers, I visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial and Museum. In a place filled with images and records that are simply overwhelming, it was the exhibit devoted to the Righteous Gentiles that affected me the most.
There is a well-known Talmudic expression that says “whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” It is hard not to think of this line, when reading the following description of just a few of the nearly 700 children that Nicholas Winton rescued:
Among them are the film director Karel Reisz, who made “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981), “Isadora” (1968) and “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” (1960); Lord Alfred Dubs, who became a member of Parliament; Joe Schlesinger, a Canadian broadcast correspondent; Hugo Marom, a founder of the Israeli Air Force; Vera Gissing, the author of “Pearls of Childhood” (2007) and other books; and Renata Laxová, a geneticist who discovered the Neu-Laxová Syndrome, a congenital abnormality.
May Nicholas Winton rest in peace, and may we all prove worthy of his example.