Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sir Nicholas Winton, 1909-2015

The death has been announced of Sir Nicholas Winton, who dies this morning five weeks after his 106th birthday.

Winton was working in Prague in 1938 after the Munich Conference led to Nazi Germany carving the Sudetenland off of Czechoslovakia. The writing was on the wall for the rest of Czechoslovakia, and Winton helped organize a series of trains that would take young Czechoslovak Jews to Holland and then across the North Sea to England where they would be safe. Up until the start of World War II on September 1, 1939, Winton's work was able to save 669 Jewish children who almost certainly would have been sent to the concentration camps. In fact, there was another train scheduled to leave on September 1, but obviously the start of hostilities stopped that last train.

I mention all this here on this blog because among the children Winton saved was a 12-year-old boy named Karel Reisz. Reisz spoke little English when he got on the train, but he quickly learned in England, and like a whole lot of refugees, made a big contribution to the film community. Reisz was one of the directors who was responsible for the British new wave. Probably Reisz' most famous film is Saturday Night and Sunday Morning.

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