By MILAN VODICKA
I have a proposal for the Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, the person I have in mind has probably no chance of getting it. He is not a warrior-turned-peacemaker, nor is he a terrorist reformed by circumstances. He is not an elderly statesman, nor a sterile world institution.
He just happened to save 669 children from certain death in gas chambers.
Seventy years ago Nicholas Winton came to Prague, quickly foresaw the storm gathering on the horizon and started to act like a human being.
Winton turned 100 in May. His "children," as they call themselves, stood around him. It was a fascinating sight: They represented lives that might not have come into existence at all.
The whole story is almost unbelievable. The Nazis had already occupied Prague when Winton started to organize an exodus of Czech and Slovak Jewish children from their families to Great Britain. He had to arrange various permits (some of them he forged) to find new families and money to care for them. And all this happened right under the noses of the Gestapo. He organized six special trains.
The last one did not make it. That train was planned for early September 1939, but the war broke out and it was halted. It contained 250 children. None of them apparently survived the war.
YOU MIGHT say this is an old affair but it isn't, because the core values involved remain important. Winton's deeds show that one can always do something for another person. He decided to do something when others did absolutely nothing.
The message of this story is bolstered by the fact that it was forgotten for 50 years. Even Winton did not find it important enough to talk about.
When today someone tells him that he is a real hero, he will reply that what he did isn't worth mentioning.
The fate of survivors suggest the enormous loss to the world. Among the saved were future British cabinet minister Alfred Dubs, world-famous film director Karel Reisz, well-known Canadian newspaperman Joe Schlesinger, authors and brilliant businessmen.
There is a saying in the Talmud: He who saves one human life saves the whole world. Nicholas Winton did that 669 times. With that, he also changed the world. "He not only rescued us but enabled thousands of our offspring to be born," said Zuzana Maresova, who came with the last- but-one train from Prague in 1939 to England. "Among them we can find many who helped or will help other children in distress. It is like an endless row of dominoes of goodness, and Nicholas Winton is the finger that moved the first of them."
By giving life to children, he gave us all hope and inspiration to do good. It is a permanent message, and behind that message is a thought and a deed.
So Winton would make a better Nobel Peace Prize candidate than a veteran politician who receives the award simply because diplomacy demands it.
It is time to have a Nobel Prize winner again who is not just political, but also humane.
It would indeed be inspiring in our present hard times if we had a Nobel laureate who achieved something this great and deeply humanistic.
I am afraid, however, that those who decide such matters won't consider 669 lives sufficient.
The writer is employed by the Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes.
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