– 50 years after the Kindertransport, the rescue is revealed


In 1987 Nicky was introduced to Dr Elizabeth Maxwell while trying to find a suitable home for his Kindertransport papers enclosed in a scrapbook.  As a Holocaust historian and the wife of Robert Maxwell, the newspaper publisher, she brought his story into the public domain, leading to major articles in the Sunday Mirror and onto the BBC That’s Life! programme where he finally met some of the children, now adults, who had been brought to Britain from Czechoslovakia in 1939.

First page of the three page article about Nicky and the Kindertransport published in the Sunday Mirror on 28 February 1988, titled The Lost Children.

Nicky was invited to attend the live filming of That’s Life!, where Esther Ranzten told the Kindertransport story and pointed out parts of the scrapbook including the list of children and foster homes they went to.  She then introduced several of those now-adult children to Nicky, sitting unaware between them in the front row of the audience.  On a further programme, Nicky discovered that most of the audience was comprised of his rescued children, who had come forward after the initial publicity.

Video clip of BBC That’s Life! programmes presented by Esther Rantzen on 28th February 1988 and 3rd July 1988.

Many of the children discovered Nicky’s part in their history from enquiries that Dr Maxwell had sent out to the former foster home addresses and a large group of them met Nicky at the conference on the Holocaust, “Remembering for the Future”, organised by Dr Maxwell in June 1988. Over the next 27 years until his death in 2015, aged 106, Nicky met and received letters from many of ‘his’ children as they gradually came to know how they were saved.

Gold ring engraved with the words “Save one life, save the world”, given to Nicky by some of the children he rescued during the “Remembering for the Future” conference in June 1988 (a conference on the Holocaust, organised by Dr Elizabeth Maxwell). He wore the ring for the rest of his life. The words are taken from the Jewish Talmud teaching: “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

Nicky at a London reception with five of ‘his children’ & the Czech Ambassador, circa 1998, from left to right: Lord Alfred Dubs, Ambassador Pavel Seifter - Czech ambassador to the Court of St James, Nicky, Vera Gissing, Lady Milena Grenfell-Baines, Karel Reisz, Ute Klein.

Nicky with a large group of ‘his children’, singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at a reception at the Czech embassy in London to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Letter from one of the rescued children, Eva Hayman, né Diamant, dated 18 March 1988. Eva is the sister of Vera Gissing who met Nicky on That’s Life! in February 1988. She wrote to him after Vera informed her of their meeting and his role in their rescue.  Nicky received many such letters over the following years as the Kinder discovered that part of their history.

VIEW Kinder memories of Nicky

As the story of the Kindertransport began to become more widely known, Nicholas started to receive recognition from the Czech and Slovak governments, as well as many Jewish and other organisations.  On an early visit to Prague, Czech Republic in 1991 he was awarded the Freedom of the City and had an audience with President Havel.  Many awards followed.  In 2003 he was awarded a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II for Services to Humanity and the Order of the White Double Cross by Slovak President Schuster.   In 2014, aged 105, he was awarded the Order of the White Lion by President Zeman of the Czech Republic.  Alongside awards, he received many letters of thanks including from President Weizman of Israel in 1994 and President George W. Bush in 2006.  He used every occasion possible to remind people of the value of living an ethical life, which he believed must include helping those in need.

The Czech Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, awarded to Nicky by President Vaclav Havel in 1998, is an honour awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to humanity, democracy and human rights.

Nicky receiving a knighthood in March 2003 from Queen Elizabeth II for Services to Humanity

Further Major awards

Letter to Nicky from President George W. Bush, thanking him for what he did to rescue the children in 1939.

Interview with Nicky in his local newspaper after receiving his letter from President Bush in 2006. He used the publicity to promote his campaign to get council land to build the next Abbeyfield Extra Care Home, for which funds had already been raised.

In 2009 Czech Railways commemorated the anniversary of the Kindertransport by recreating the journey made 70 years before, using steam trains of the period.  This was known as the Winton Train.  It carried 22 of the original Kinder and their families as well as others from Prague to Liverpool Street station, London over 4 days following an original route through Germany and Holland. It left Prague on 1st September, the date the final transport Nicky had organised had been due to leave, which was cancelled by the German invasion of Poland.  The train was met at Liverpool St by Nicky and large numbers of well-wishers.

Two Slovak steam trains from 1936, Green Anton and Albatross pulling the Winton Train for the first part of the journey through the Czech Republic. Two German trains of the period were used through Germany and Holland and the newly rebuilt Tornado made the final journey from Harwich in Essex to Liverpool Street Station, London.

22 of the original Kinder and their families made the journey on the Winton Train in September 2009

Nicky greeting Susie Medas and all the Kinder and their families from the train at Liverpool St station. 

Further Winton train pictures

On 1st July 2015 Nicky died aged 106.  A year later on his birthday, a memorial was held at the Guildhall, London, with guests from the UK, Czech and Slovak governments, representatives of the many organisations he supported, friends and family and 26 of his Kinder and hundreds of their descendants.   The following evening a concert was held in his memory to celebrate his life.  Performers included friends and descendants of the rescued children.

Watch the video of the memorial