Dame Esther Rantzen: 'Nicolas Winton film moved me to tears'

The television presenter first brought the Jewish stockbroker's heroism to light in a BBC programme


Dame Esther Rantzen has said a new film about “British Schindler” Nicholas Winton moved her to tears.

The television presenter, who recently revealed that she had been diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, brought the Jewish stockbroker’s remarkable story to light in 1988.

Forty nine years earlier, Winton had abandoned a planned skiing holiday to travel to Prague and help evacuate refugees.

Aware that tragedy was looming as the Nazis began to occupy the country, he travelled back to Britain to lobby the government to accept more Jewish children. 

After the war, Winton moved on with his life and his story was largely forgotten until Dame Esther invited him onto That’s Life!

As he sat in the front row, she asked the audience if anyone had been saved by him, and dozens of people stood up. 

When Dame Esther asked if anyone was a child or grandchild of one of the children brought to England thanks to Winton, the entire audience rose.

The account of how Winton helped 669 Jewish children escape will now be dramatised in a new film starring Anthony Hopkins and Johnny Flynn. 

“Of all the literally thousands of stories we told in the 21 years of That’s Life, the one that showed the very best and the very worst of humanity was the revelation that Nicky Winton had saved a generation of Czech Jewish children from the Holocaust,” she told The Telegraph.

“I was worried about a feature film’s treatment. My fears were unjustified. 

“From the moment I saw Anthony Hopkins looking and sounding almost exactly like Sir Nicholas, I knew the story would be told sensitively and accurately.”

She added: “The one thing Nicky always hoped is that we would learn the lessons of history. 

“When he appeared at a conference of young people in Prague, the organiser asked them to light up their phones if Nicky’s story proved one person can make a difference and inspired them to follow that example - and every phone in the hall lit up. 

“If this film has the same effect that is his finest legacy, the one he would have wanted.”

Earlier this week, Dame Esther said she believes her lung cancer may have been caused by working in BBC buildings riddled with asbestos for years.

Last year, the corporation paid £1.64 million in damages over the deaths of 11 former staff members who died from mesothelioma - a rare form of the disease. 

Speaking to The Mirror she added: “I’m making the most of each day, usually by sitting in my garden... enjoying the fresh air, the birds and the summer flowers.”

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