Man who saved 669 people from Holocaust didn’t realize they were standing behind him waiting to say thanks decades later

Nicky & Vera: A Quiet Hero of the Holocaust and the Children He Rescued is a new book for children aged 6 to 9. It’s based on the true story of Nicholas “Nicky” Winton, an Englishman who saved 669 children from the Nazis. Vera Gissing is one of the children he saved. Young readers will learn about Vera’s life in her little town near Prague before the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in this book written in simple English.

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Years later the people he saved came to thank him and he didn’t realize they were right behind him!

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The book cover shows little Vera standing alone at a big train station, holding a toy cat and a small suitcase.

Peter Sís has included vivid illustrations of the objects and people Vera left behind inside the book, including her mother and father, her home, a horse…

Winton is invited to Prague by a friend as the Nazis invade Europe. Winton strives to assist families in bringing their kids to safety after realizing the risks.

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For hundreds of kids, including Vera, Winton found foster families in England.

Sís does not go into detail on the crimes the Nazis committed or the emotional suffering Vera went through. He reveals that the 250 other kids on the train with her cousins were prevented from leaving Prague.

Her father and Mother had died in the Nazi camps. Her cousins too.

Winton, who was both humble and brave, inspired Sís. The Englishman never mentioned his achievements. His wife was unaware of all of this, and his accomplishments remained a closely guarded secret for decades after WWII. Even the children had no idea who was in charge of keeping them alive.

That changed in 1988 when the BBC staged a sort of surprise reunion. Winton was seated in the front row of a crowded theater. Esther Rantzen, the show’s host, asked, “Is there anyone in our audience who owed their life to Nicholas Winton? If so, could you stand up please?”

Everyone, including Vera Gissing, stood up.

Vera Gissing and Winton became close friends. Gissing’s book Pearls of Childhood contains memoirs about her childhood. She has advanced-stage dementia and is currently 92 years old, according to her daughter Nicola Gissing. Vera married and had her three children in England following the war. Nicola of Winton claims, “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for his actions.”

Nicola Gissing is particularly moved by the portrayal of her mother’s early years in Czechoslovakia.

“There’s her parents. That’s her with the cats and how she loved the horses and then the next page with her almost-blind grandmother,” she says. “These are all things I’ve been brought up with, and to see it illustrated is … it’s made me very emotional, but in a nice way.”

Nicola Gissing also recalls hearing from her mother about some of the horrifying things that occurred to people during the Holocaust when she was a very small child, per report.

According to Nicola Gissing, Sís keeps the Holocaust story age-appropriate by focusing on particulars that even very young children can understand and by not making Vera’s escape and the Nazi invasion too scary.

Photo: screencap

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