Sir Nicholas Winton, former President and member of the Rotary Club of Maidenhead, flew to Prague to receive the Order of The White Lion, the Czech Republic’s highest honor.
Sir Nicholas, who is 105, received the honor from Czech President Milos Zeman at a special ceremony at Prague Castle on Tuesday, 28thOctober.
Winton, who has often been nicknamed “the British Schindler”, organized the transportation and settlement of 669 children over nine months before the Second World War broke out in September 1939. Most of those he saved were Jewish children living in then-German-occupied Czechoslovakia whose families were later imprisoned or murdered in concentration camps.
In his address to the gathering he said: “I want to thank you all for this enormous expression of thanks for something which happened to me a heck of a long time ago. I am delighted that so many of the children are still about and are here to thank me.
“England was the only country at that time willing to accept unaccompanied minors. I thank the British people for making room to accept them, and of course the enormous help given by so many of the Czechs who were at that time doing what they could to fight the Germans and to try to get the children out.”
In the same ceremony, the Order of the White Lion was also bestowed on Sir Winston Churchill, given in memoriam to his grandson Nicholas Soames. They are the only British citizens to receive the award, after Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. Presenting the award, the Czech President, Milos Zeman said: “It is a great pleasure to confer this award upon two great personalities of the UK. I am only ashamed it has been awarded so late – but better late than never. Congratulations Sir Winton. This is our highest honor; we cannot do one higher.”
The ceremony was attended by many of the people that Winton saved, as well as schoolchildren from the Basic School of Sir Nicholas Winton, named after him, in Kunzak, Czech Republic.
A Rotarian for more than 40 years, Sir Nicholas was last year inducted into the Rotarian Peace Hall of Fame at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
He has also been nominated by the Czech Republic for the Nobel Peace Prize and in 2007 won that country’s highest military honor.
Source: RIBI/ The Guardian
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