January 20, 2011

Film about Briton who saved Jewish children premiers



Sir Nicholas Winton arranged 8 trains to carry 669 children, mostly Jewish, from Czechoslovakia to Britain at the outbreak of World War II.

PRAGUE — A film about a Briton who organized mass evacuations of children to save them from being sent to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps had its world premiere Thursday in Prague, the Czech capital.

Sir Nicholas Winton arranged eight trains to carry 669 children, most of them Jewish, from Czechoslovakia through Germany to Britain at the outbreak of World War II in 1939.

The youngsters were sent to foster parents — mostly in England, a small number in Sweden.

Nicky’s Family, by Slovak director Matej Minac combines a feature movie and a documentary to provide details of the operation and about the rescued children. It also focuses on young people who decided to follow his example and help those in need around the globe.

Winton, who is now 101, was in Prague to attend the premiere late Thursday.

He received a standing ovation when he was taken to the stage in a wheelchair after an earlier screening for school children.

“I hope it’s fascinating for young people because it gives an indication to the future. I don’t think it helps looking back to the past,” Winton said.

Joining him on the stage, Premysl Sobotka, deputy speaker of Czech Parliament’s upper house, the Senate, handed a nomination of Winton for the Nobel Peace Prize to Norway’s ambassador to Prague, Jensen Eikaas, .

Sobotka’s office said hundreds of thousands of people signed the nomination.

Eikaas said what Winton did “does embodies all values of the peace prize.”

In one of the film’s most moving moments, a mother who was undecided what to do, took her daughter out of the train through a window — then returned her to the train when it began moving.

“She had a second to decide,” Minac said. “It’s a true story.”

Minac said he and his team managed to trace 261 of the rescued children.

“What (Winton) did is something extraordinary,” said Zuzana Maresova, who was one of those children.

Winton’s story did not emerge until 1988 when his wife found correspondence referring to the prewar events. In 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair praised him as “Britain’s Schindler,” after the German businessman Oskar Schindler, who also saved Jewish lives during the war.

Minac’s previous film on the issue, “Nicholas Winton — The Power of Good” won an International Emmy Award in 2002.