In 1938, Hitler insisted that the German sections of Czechoslovakia be returned to Germany. After several failed attempts to come to a peaceful agreement, Great Britain, France and Italy met with Hitler in September 1938. In order to keep Hitler appeased and to avoid immediate war, the Munich Agreement was reached. Czechoslovakia, which was not represented at the meeting was left to fight on its own or capitulate. The German areas, known as Sudetenland, became part of Germany.
115,000 Czechs and 30,000 Germans fled the new German area and became refugees in the remainder of Czechoslovakia,where shelter was inadequate, food was scarce and hope was in short supply. Add to this dispossession - fear. In November 1938, a violent series of incidents, known as Kristallnacht, served notice to the fact that Hitler’s anti-semitism was only going to get worse.
Into this panic and desperation, Nicholas Winton, a young stockbroker, went on vacation. It was not the ski trip to Switzerland he had planned, but his arrival would save the lives of 669 mostly Jewish Czech and Slovak children. He and a friend, Martin Blake, were helping out in the refugee camps. War was inevitable, and it became apparent that the children needed help getting out of the country. Kindertransport were being arranged in Germany and Austria and would save 10,000 children before the war. The Czech children needed their own version. Winton started one. He set up an office in his room at a hotel in Prague. He began taking names of children, and gathering their photos. As more frightened parents heard about his efforts, a storefront office was opened. The lines of parents attracted gestapo attention. These confrontations were solved with bribes. An initial success got 25 children out of Prague on a plane to Sweden, in Jan 1939..
Winton registered over 900 children and took names and details on 5000. Winton then returned to London to find foster homes, raise money and arrange transportation. He left friends, Trevor Chadwick and Bill Barazetti, in charge of the operation in Prague.
In London, Winton created an agency, using stationery from the “British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia,” to which was added “Children’s Division.” The agency was staffed by volunteers including Winton’s mother. He got aid from the Refugee Children’s Movement, printed the children's photos, and went about the job of finding funds and families.
Families volunteered to take children. Donations came in. When donations didn’t meet the needs, Winton came up with the difference himself. When the Home Office was slow getting entry visas for the children, they were forged. Meanwhile, in Prague, Mr. Chadwick cultivated the Gestapo chief, Karl Boemelberg. Mr. Boemelberg was provided money, to be used for bribes to key Nazis and railroad personnel, who insisted on being paid to allow the trains to leave.
|Approximate Route taken by the rescue|
trains and boats from Prague to London.
On March 14, 1939, the twenty children left Prague by train, amidst the tears and sobbing of departure. The next day, German troops marched into the Czech areas of Bohemia and Moravia, and on March 16,th at Prague Castle, Hitler declared the areas as the German protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
Eight more trains were arranged to get the children out of Prague. The first seven trains rescued 669 children from certain death. The eighth train, with about 250 children aboard, was waiting to leave on September 1, 1939. Hitler invaded Poland that day, World War II began, borders were closed, the train and the children disappeared and Winton’s heroic efforts came to an end.
Nicholas George Wertheim, son of Rudolph and Barbara (Wertheimer) Wertheim, was born in London, England, May 19, 1909. His parents were of German-Jewish origin but became Christians and changed their surname to Winton. Rudolph was a well-to-do merchant banker, who provided his family with a twenty room mansion in West Hampstead, London. Nicholas had a brother, Bobby, and a sister, Charlotte.
Nicholas attended Stowe School in Buckingham. Before 1931, he was apprenticed in international banking. He spent time working in Hamburg, Berlin and Paris, becoming fluent in German and French in the process and was a stockbroker in 1938. 1938 was the year that he, his mother and siblings changed their name from Wortham or Wertheim to Winton.
The 1939 register shows Nicholas G Winton and Robert C Winton living at 20 Willow Road. Nicholas (date of birth 19 May 1909) is a member of the Stock Exchange, Robert (date of birth 23 Oct 1914) is a wireless engineer Bsc. 
When the war began, Winton drove an ambulance in Normandy, and served in the Royal Air Force. Even though he never mentioned his work rescuing children, he continued throughout his life "doing good deeds:" working for refugee organizations and the Abbeyfield Society, which assists the elderly. He raised a million dollars during one fund raiser. Even before his "children's" scrapbook was discovered by his wife in 1988, Nicholas had been made a member of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his charity work.
He met his wife, Grete Gjelstrup, a Dane, while working for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Paris. They were married in 1948. She died in 1999. They had three children, Nicholas, Barbara and Robin. Robin died in 1962, at the age of seven.
At 106 years old, Sir Nicholas Winton, with his daughter and two grandchildren by his side, died peacefully in his sleep Wednesday, July 1, 2015, in Maidenhead, England, from the New York Times Obituary. However, "His son-in-law Stephen Watson said he died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital, Slough. The towns are about six miles apart.
Winston's son Nick said of his father's legacy:
Former Labour MP, Lord Dubs, one of the rescued children, said:
The children he saved and their descendants number over 5700.
Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Family Tree DNA.
On 6 Jul 2015 at 19:05 GMT Grant Garber wrote:
Wife: Grete Gjelstrup Children: Nicholas and Barbara
On 3 Jul 2015 at 17:59 GMT Jillaine Smith wrote:
On 2 Jul 2015 at 13:07 GMT S (Hill) Willson wrote:
On 1 Jul 2015 at 21:25 GMT Anne B wrote:
Nicholas is 32 degrees from AJ Jacobs, 37 degrees from Isaac Kidd, 40 degrees from Greg Slade and 21 degrees from Queen Elizabeth II Windsor on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.