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Anthony Hopkins Stars in Film about the “British Schindler” Who Saved Jewish Czech Children During Holocaust

Screening of “One Life” in Los Angeles was attended by descendants of the 669 children saved by Sir Nicholas Winton.
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March 19, 2024

All 300 seats in The Museum of Tolerance’s Peltz Theater were filled for a screening of “One Life,” a new film about a British stockbroker who saved hundreds of Jewish Czech children from slaughter during the Holocaust. The date of the screening — March 14 — was significant, as it was the 86th anniversary of the first Kindertransport.

The film tells the story of Sir Nicholas Winton (Anthony Hopkins) through a series of flashbacks. The film opens in the 1980s, with Winton, now in his 70s, going through the meticulous, treasured paperwork that he saved for 40 years. The documents and photos he kept were his legacy of saving Jewish Czech children from the Holocaust.

His wife is irritated by the pack rat presence of her husband’s idle files, and encourages him to dispose of them. As Winton goes through the files, he is haunted by flashbacks of the children he couldn’t save. The story then moves to 1938, in the days preceding the Nazi occupation and annexation of the Sudetenland.

It’s a true story that will have viewers inevitably comparing it to “Schindler’s List.” While “One Life” isn’t as gruesome as Steven Spielberg’s film, it’s just as grueling. Scenes of families being ripped apart are no easier to watch.

There was an audible gasp from the audience during a scene where children are boarding a train in Prague, en route to the Netherlands and a boat to the United Kingdom. A Jewish father gives his eldest son his hat, bids him and the middle child goodbye, saying they’ll “be together again soon,” while holding his youngest son who has to stay behind with him.

Another major difference between “One Life” and “Schindler’s List”: Winton, who died in 2015, lived to be 106, while Oskar Schindler died at 66 in 1974. Without giving away too much of the film, Winton gets to see the fruits of his labors to save Jewish children.

Though Winton was born Jewish, his family converted to Christianity during his childhood. Viewing the film in 2024 is heartwarming as it comes at a time where the Jewish people are feel threatened and in need of allies outside of the community standing side by side with them.

Photo by Todd Felderstein (@ToddMakesFotos)

After the screening, Jewish Film Festival founder Hilary Helstein spoke to the crowd and acknowledged the offspring of children saved by Winton. Each of those descendants in attendance were introduced and stood up to be recognized:

Karen Kruger, daughter of Erica, a niece of the Daisy Sisters saved by Winton. She was accompanied by filmmaker Jeffrey Gary, her codirector of “Letters from Bruno,” a documentary about her family.

Kim Masters, editor at large of The Hollywood Reporter and host of KCRW’s “The Business.”  Winton rescued her mother, Alice and her mother’s sisters Yossi and Ellie. Kim and her mother had visited Winton at his home near London before he passed away.

Helene Lux and Beverly Lux, wife and daughter of Dave Lux. Dave and his brother Herman were saved by Winton. Mr. Lux spoke at the Museum of Tolerance for many years before he died in 2018.

Jessie Sloane, whose mother was saved by Winton.

Michelle M. Gold, daughter of a Kindertransport survivor who wrote “Memories that Won’t Go Away: A Tribute to the Children of the Kindertransport.”

Winton’s son, Nick Winton, Jr. was also in attendance. Speaking with the Journal, Winton Jr. said that Barbara, his late sister always said that the number one choice of an actor to play their father in a film is Anthony Hopkins. Barbara passed away in 2022 at age 69, and wrote a biography of their father “If It’s Not Impossible…: The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton.”

Winton Jr. told the crowd just how selfless his father remained through the rest of his life.

“Ten years before my father died, the production company, Seesaw Films, who made ‘The King’s Speech,’ went to see my father and asked if they could make a film about him,” he said. “He said, ‘no, don’t need any publicity. There’s no point. There’s already enough in the media and you’ll have to find something else to do.’”

It’s a good thing they didn’t listen, for so many more people will now learn the story of how one man led an effort to save 669 children, which has led to an estimated 6,000 descendants.

The Journal spoke with Nick Winton, Jr. about his father’s legacy:
 

JEWISH JOURNAL: You told me that your late sister Barbara’s dream casting for your father was Anthony Hopkins. How does it feel to see your father portrayed by one of the greatest actors of our time?
NICK WINTON, JR: Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of my father is amazing. Few people who see the film will know just how well he captures my father looks, his mannerisms and his sense of humour. It is uncanny to watch and at times I am convinced that I am looking at my father on the screen.

JJ: What’s something that’s not in the film that you’d love viewers to know about your father?
NW: My father believed in what he called “Active Goodness”. That is, to be a good person one had to go out to find and help those in need. He didn’t feel that it was okay to be passive, and that simply to avoid doing anything bad didn’t make anyone a good person. He was involved in many charities and activities to help others throughout his long life.

JJ: Tell me about the earliest memory you have about learning of your father’s efforts to save the children?
NW: He was often asked, “why did you keep it a secret for such a long time”. His reply was “I didn’t keep it a secret. I just didn’t talk about it!”
Until the story appeared on the TV show ’That’s Life’ I didn’t realise the implications of what he had done. When I use that clip in my presentations to organisations and schools it still brings a tear to my eye at the massive impact the rescue had on so many people.

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