Prague Schoolchildren Push to Have World War II Hero Given Nobel Prize

March 15, 2013 2:09 pm 2 comments

Sir Nicholas Winton in Prague in 2007. Photo: Wiki Commons

Schoolchildren in the Czech Republic are making one last push to get a 103-year-old British man awarded the Nobel peace prize.

Miroslava Nemcova, speaker of the lower house of parliament in the Czech Republic, recently announced to reporters that she was formally submitting a nomination for Sir Nicholas Winton to be awarded the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize after 170,000 signatures were collected by school students in Prague, in a push to have him receive the award.

Sir Winton visited Prague, then a part of Czechoslovakia, in 1938 shortly after Britain and France had agreed to give the Sudetenland – the largely German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia – to Hitler and Nazi Germany. Appalled by the condition of refugees there, and certain that matters could only get worse for them and the Jewish population, he began organizing the transport of children out of the country, mostly to new homes in Britain. Over the next nine months – even after Germany had invaded Czechoslovakia in March 1939 – special trains left Prague for London, carrying a total of 669 children to safety.

One of the children was Milena Fleischmannova (now Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines), who boarded one of the trains with her younger sister Eva.

“I remember being on the platform,” she told Germany’s Duetsche Welle. “I certainly remember my grandparents being there, and my mother. I have an autograph book. My grandfather had actually signed it at nine o’clock in the evening on the evening of my departure. He says, ‘Remember to be a faithful daughter to your country, to your parents, and always remember your grandfather, who loves you very much.’”

Sir Winton initially withheld information of his war-time activities from even those closest to him. But his wife happened upon an old suitcase containing odd-looking documents about children from Czechoslovakia, and the discovery set in motion a series of events that included a knighthood, a documentary and now perhaps a Nobel prize.

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