Nicholas (Wertheim) Winton

Nicholas George (Wertheim) Winton (1909 - 2015)

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Sir Nicholas George "Nicky" Winton formerly Wertheim
Born in Hampstead, London, Englandmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Vejle, Denmarkmap
Father of
Died in Slough, Berkshire, Englandmap
Profile last modified | Created 1 Jul 2015
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Categories: Holocaust Heroes | Centenarians | Notables.

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Sir Nicholas Winton

"If something's not impossible, there must be a way of doing it."
- Nicholas Winton[1]

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.[2]

115,000 Czechs and 30,000 Germans fled the new German area and became refugees in the remainder of Czechoslovakia,[3]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.[4] An initial success got 25 children out of Prague on a plane to Sweden, in Jan 1939.[5][6].

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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[4] 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.[4]

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.[4] 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.[3]

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.[4]

Nicholas George Wertheim, son of Rudolph and Barbara (Wertheimer) Wertheim, was born in London, England, May 19, 1909.[7][8][9] 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.[8]

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.[8] 1938 was the year that he, his mother and siblings changed their name from Wortham or Wertheim to Winton.[10]

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. [11]

When the war began, Winton drove an ambulance in Normandy,[12] 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.[8]

He met his wife, Grete Gjelstrup, a Dane, while working for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Paris[12]. 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.[8]

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.[8] However, "His son-in-law Stephen Watson said he died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital, Slough.[13] The towns are about six miles apart.

Some Survivors[14]

  • Dagmar Simova, cousin of the Czech-born U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
  • Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, whose father, Rudolf Fleischmann saved Thomas Mann by assisting him to gain Czech citizenship for his self-imposed exile from Germany after the rise of Hitler.
  • Joe Schlesinger, CBC correspondent.
  • Julius Sidon from California, the brother to Chief Rabbi Karol E. Sidon of the Czech Republic.
  • Lord Dubs, a Member of Parliament.
  • Hugo Merom, the ex-Israeli air force pilot and consultant who specializes in airport planning.
  • Karel Reisz, film director


  • Former President of the Rotary Club.[13]
  • 1983 - Member of the Order of the British Empire[8]
  • 1998 - Honored at an event "Thank You Britain," sponsored by the Czech ambassador to Britain.[14]
  • 1998 - Awarded Order of T. G. Marsaryk by Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic during a grand ceremony in Hradcany Castle.[14]
  • 2003 - Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.[4][15][16]
  • 2008, 2013 - Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.[17]
  • 2014 - Awarded the Order of The White Lion by Czech president Milos Zeman.[13]


Winston's son Nick said of his father's legacy:

"It is about encouraging people to make a difference and not waiting for something to be done or waiting for someone else to do it."[13]

Former Labour MP, Lord Dubs, one of the rescued children, said:

"His legacy is that when there is a need for you to do something for your fellow human beings, you have got to do it."[13]

The children he saved and their descendants number over 5700.[5]


He is buried next to his wife in Braywick Cemetery, Maidenhead, Windsor and Maidenhead Royal Borough, Berkshire, England[18]


[1] [2] [3] [4] [7] [8] [9] [12] [14] [13] [15] [16] [17] [19]

  1. 1.0 1.1 60 Minutes, Sir Nicholas Winton "Saving the Children", May 27, 2014 (accessed July 1, 2015).
  2. 2.0 2.1 Encyclopedia Britannica, “Munich Agreement", (accessed July 1, 2015).
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Wikipedia, "German occupation of Czechoslovakia", (accessed July 1, 2015).
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 The New York Times, Obituary for Nicholas Winton, (accessed July 1, 2015).
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nicky's Family. Matej Mináč (director), Menemsha Films, 2011
  6. The film stated 25, other numbers are also used
  7. 7.0 7.1 Free BMD, Vol. 1a, p. 587, Index, (accessed July 1, 2015).
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 The New York Times, "Nicholas Winton, Rescuer of 669 Children From Holocaust, Dies at 106", by Robert D. McFadden. July 1, 2015, (accessed July 1, 2015).
  9. 9.0 9.1 England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008, database, FamilySearch (accessed 1 July 2015), Nicholas George Wertheim, 1909; from "England & Wales Births, 1837-2006," database, findmypast, (2012); citing Birth Registration, Hampstead, London, England, citing General Register Office, Southport, England.
  10. Notification of name change for Babette (Babi), Charlotte Matilde, Nicholas George and Robert Charles Wortham or Wertheim, change to Barbara, Charlotte Matilda, Nicholas George and Robert Charles Winton published in THE LONDON GAZETTE, 4 NOVEMBER, 1938. Download pdf here Other information: BARBARA WINTON of 48, Ivor Court, London, N.W.1, Widow, a British subject by marriage, CHARLOTTE MATILDA WINTON of 10, Belsize Crescent, "London, N.W.3, Spinster, a natural born British subject, NICHOLAS GEORGE WINTON of 20, Willow Road, 'London, N.W.3, Stockbroker, a natural 'born British subject, and ROBERT CHARLES WINTON of 20, Willow Road aforesaid, B.Sc. Wireless Engineer, a natural born British subject.
  11. 1939 register ( Ref: RG101/0235C/005/29 Letter Code: AKAM
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 The Guardian "Sir Nicholas Winton Obituary" Wednesday 1 July 2015.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 BBC, Obituary for Nicholas Winton, (accessed July 1, 2015).
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Jewish Virtual Library, Obituary for Nicholas Winton, (accessed July 1, 2015).
  15. 15.0 15.1 CNN, "British Schindler' knighted.", March 11, 2003, (accessed July 15, 2015).
  16. 16.0 16.1 This is sometimes stated to be 2002. He was named Dec. 31, 2002, on Queen Elizabeth II's New Year's Honours list. CNN, "British 'Schindler' gets knighthood.", December 31, 2002, (accessed July 1, 2015).
  17. 17.0 17.1 The Prague Post online Johnston, Raymond. "Sir Nicholas Winton Turns 105"
  19. Wikipedia, "Winton Train.", (accessed July 1, 2015).

See also:

  • Wikipedia, "Nicholas Winton", (accessed July 1, 2015).
  • England and Wales Census, 1911, database, FamilySearch (accessed 1 July 2015), Nicholas George Wertheim, Hampstead, Wm Hampstead, London, England; from "1911 England and Wales census," database and images, findmypast; citing PRO RG 14, county, registration district, subdistrict, The National Archives of the UK, Kew, Surrey. Data: Nicholas George Wertheim residing and born in London, Hampstead, age 1, (accessed July 1, 2015).

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Sir Nicholas Winton
Sir Nicholas Winton


On 6 Jul 2015 at 19:05 GMT Grant Garber wrote:

Just thought I would pass on some additional information I found, via the "Guardian" website:

Wife: Grete Gjelstrup Children: Nicholas and Barbara

On 3 Jul 2015 at 17:59 GMT Jillaine Smith wrote:

Great work! Note that the obits may be copyrighted; if you can link to them instead, you may want to do that.

On 2 Jul 2015 at 13:07 GMT S (Hill) Willson wrote:

Great job on this profile, Gaile and Anne. I like the new category he is in too!

On 1 Jul 2015 at 21:25 GMT Anne B wrote:

Winton-231 and Wertheimer-33 do not represent the same person because: Rejecting so I can change the last name at birth to Wertheim, Wertheimer is mother's maiden name. Will then re-propose.

Nicholas is 36 degrees from George Bush, 39 degrees from Rick San Soucie and 22 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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