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105-Year-Old British Man Who Saved 669 Children From The Nazis Receives Highest Czech Honour

Sir Nicholas Winton has been dubbed "Britain's Schindler".

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A 105-year-old British man has been awarded the Czech Republic’s highest state order for helping to save 669 children from the Nazis.

AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Sir Nicholas Winton received the Order of the White Lion from Czech president Miloš Zeman on Tuesday.

In 1939, when he was 29 years old, Winton helped hundreds of children, the majority of whom were Jewish, flee Czechoslovakia by train, and arranged for foster families to meet them upon their arrival in London, the BBC reported.

This week the Czech president arranged for Winton, dubbed “Britain’s Schindler”, to be flown from Britain aboard a military jet to receive the award.

AP Photo/Petr David Josek

Upon accepting the honour, Winton said: "I want to thank you all for this enormous expression of thanks for something which happened to me nearly 100 years ago – and a 100 years is a heck of a long time."

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"I am delighted that so many of the children are still about and are here to thank me."

AP Photo/Petr David Josek

"I thank the British people for making room for them, 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."

Winton kept his actions a secret for over 50 years until his wife found a scrapbook with details of the evacuation.

She convinced him to appear on the BBC's That’s Life programme in 1988 to discuss what he had done during the war. Unbeknown to him, the show's producers had filled the room with 80 of the people he saved decades earlier.

View this video on YouTube

BBC / Via youtube.com

The Telegraph reported that the Czech government presented Winton with the honour this week to recognise that he gave the children “the greatest gift: The chance to live and be free."

AP Photo/Petr David Josek

The newspaper said there are believed to be around 6,000 people across the world descended from the children he saved.

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme following Tuesday’s ceremony, Winton reflected on the state of the world now: “We have made a mess of it. I don’t think we ever learn from our mistakes of the past. I don’t think we have learned anything."

“The world today is in a more dangerous situation than it has ever been, and so long as we have got weapons of mass destruction nothing is safe any more.”

You can watch Sir Nicholas Winton's speech on Tuesday in this Channel 4 News report:

View this video on YouTube

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Richard James is acting head of news for BuzzFeed Australia and is based in Sydney.

Contact Richard James at richard.james@buzzfeed.com.

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