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tv   HAR Dtalk  BBC News  October 19, 2017 12:30am-1:01am BST

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our top story: china declares a new era for the country, and president xi jinping is set to outline how that will become reality. day two of the five—year china communist national congress will discuss economic policy, a day after president xi promised greater prosperity through what he called socialism with chinese characteristics. president trump has denied a democratic congresswoman‘s claims that he was insensitive during a phone call to the widow of a soldier killed in action and this story is trending on bbc.com. google says it has developed an artificial intelligence programme that can learn without human interaction. the new alphago zero learnt and mastered the chinese game go, with no data other than a blank board and the rules of the game. that is all from me now. stay with bbc world news. now on bbc news: a look back at a previous special edition of hardtalk, when stephen sackur met the late sir nicholas winton.
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when he was just 29, he helped rescue more than 600 mostlyjewish children from nazi persecution in czechoslovakia. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. today i'm deep in the english countryside to meet a man with a remarkable story, which has earned him admiration and accolades around the world. sir nicholas winton is now 105 years old. when he was just 29, he helped rescue more than 600 mostlyjewish children from nazi persecution in czechoslovakia. now, he hates the label of hero, but his life is proof that an individuals can make an extraordinary difference. so what motivated him? sir nicholas winton, welcome to hardtalk.
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for most of your long life, your extraordinary story wasn't particularly well—known. but now it is known right around the world. do you like the fact that people now know exactly what you did in 1938 and ‘39? i don't mind the story being told. i'm not so keen on the frills. what do you mean about the frills? well, you know as a journalist, better than i do, what i mean. well, it means you get attention and people want you to tell
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the story again and again. do you get sick of that? yeah, except that when they tell it again and again and again, they add a bit of their own. well, let us together, then, tell the story, for people around the world who do not know it. and let me take you back to prague, 1938, the end of 1938. how on earth did it come to be that a young man from london, who was a successful stockbroker, had a rather glamorous life, how did it come to be that he found himself in prague in 1938? how long have you got? tell me the short version. well, the short version is that my circle of friends were all those people who were very, very left—wing. i mean, my friends were those people
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from the stafford groups, all those people i was with daily. and coupled with that, of course, my parents, being jewish, we were in direct communication with the jewish population in germany. and some of them, of course, were relations. and we had people staying with us who had lost theirjobs, lost their professions, or were in danger for family reasons. and so i, together with my political connections, felt that we knew much more than most of the politicians about what was happening there. and the more i think back on it, the more i think how right we were to have thought more than the others did.
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i think history tells us that you were absolutely right. but in particular, at the end of ‘38, you found yourself in prague wrestling with the terrible plight of the refugees who?d been forced out of sudetenland when the nazis moved into that territory. many of the people, many of the refugees werejewish. many of them were homeless, had little food. and you, as i say, a very comfortable and successful young british man, decided to make a commitment to help them. yes, but i went out knowing what i would find, in principle. i knew all these people were in danger. i knew they were —
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a lot of them were living rough. i knew a lot of them were being looked after temporarily by friends and relatives. i knew that some of them were living in camps. so, it didn't really come as a surprise to me. what surprised me was the number of societies that already existed to try and help these people. because it's clear you were not the only british person helping them. you had colleagues, there was a team of people who wanted to offer help. but your particular commitment, and your idea, was to get children, particularly children, away from czechoslovakia, away from the nazi threat, and to get them to london. but it was extraordinarily difficult to achieve
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that, wasn't it? well, it's been made more difficult than it really was. i mean, having isolated the problem into the simple way that you've put it, how can one get an unaccompanied child into england? what do you do? you ask the people who prevented it happening. and the people that prevented it happening were the home office. and we went to the home office. my mother went to the home office and said, "look, what are you going to do about it?" and she was the one who actually got the conditions from the home office under which unaccompanied children could come into the country. the question remains, from the point of view of giving them a life in england,
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you had to find families who would agree to raise them, to foster them. and ijust wonder how you did it. well, this wasn't so difficult or mysterious as you and other people now tend to make it. after all, this was a time when the british government were trying to get all the british children out of the south of england into the north. the evacuees. so it was merely a question of getting them established as part of the evacuee train. there were issues though. i know, even in the midst of the fear that was being generated across europe of the nazi
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persecution, the anti—semitism, there were rabbis who said to you, "you can't putjewish children in christian homes, that's not right. " i wonder if you paid any heed to them? well, yes. i just confronted them, and said in much politer terms, "mind your own business. this is what i think should be done, and i'm going to do it. and if you prefer a dead jew than a jew brought up in a christian home, it's really not my problem, it's your problem." i think what you've just told me encapsulates your attitude then, and maybe through your life,
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that you were determined to follow through and act on what you believed to be right. i can't see what other act one can follow. you can only act what you yourself feel is right. but so many people might feel what is right, but not have the courage, or the energy, or the commitment to act upon it. but you did. yes, well, that's theirfault, not mine. now, you managed, with your colleagues, to get 669 children, again mostlyjewish children, out of a situation where they almost certainly would have perished had you not rescued them. but when it came to the ninth train, i think it was due to leave on 1 september 1939, and you had arranged i think for pretty much 250 children
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to find homes in england at the end of that journey, you found that the journey was thwarted because germany invaded poland, then britain declared war upon germany, and there was to be no more train from prague to london. that's right. what happened to those children whom you were trying to rescue? i don't know, i really don't know. i really don't know. those that were on a train to leave for england, who never even got as far as england, their story is pretty bad, as far as one can find out. but you can't find out exactly what happened.
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those that got to england were minimal, because the trains were stopped. i tell you something that really strikes me about your story. you were involved in this remarkable effort to save lives in 1939. then you did military service, you served in the raf for a while. you were involved in work helping refugees after the war. but you never really made a point of talking very much about what had happened in prague. and you never, if i may say so, you never really made much of an effort to meet the children whom you had saved, and who grew up to be adults in britain. why?
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i don't know. i don't know even today how, if i'd wanted to do it, i would have set about it. how do you set about having all these children — were dotted all over the place? what do you do? as long as you have an after—care system, which we had, to make sure that each of these children were being properly looked after, i didn't have to worry. if there was somebody who was badly looked after, or in trouble, we had a separate organisation looking after that, and the person in charge of that was my mother. nevertheless, when the media really got hold of your story, in the 1980s, you did meet a large number of the grown up adults who had been saved by you when they were children. what was that like?
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well, that was very emotional. for them as well. you're talking about the programme. there was a television programme, and i know after the programme, people wanted to stay in touch with you. they wanted — some of them talked of you as a father figure for them. they still do. that is extraordinary. you have these hundreds of people who have had their lives saved, who look to you in a most extraordinary way. well, that's just — how do they say, how the cookie crumbles. i mean, itjust happened like that. i mean, i made no effort to keep it going. but it is something you must feel very proud of. well, it's nice to think
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that it went all right. the trouble is that some of the more elderly ones became my bridge partners, and they?re dying off. people wanted to hear from you, people talked of you as a hero. you didn't like that, why? well, you can see now from our conversation, there is nothing heroic about it. it'sjust a question of organisation and work. but i mean, at no time was i in any imminent danger, not really. slightly perhaps when i was in germany. but my main work was done in england.
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i was never in danger here. but surely the point is notjust about danger, it's about a human being showing so much compassion, so much determination, and so much commitment to helping others, and acting upon their feelings? that is heroic. yes, that's not what makes your name known though, is it? i just wonder whether it left you with a very bleak view of humanity and human nature? it depends what you mean by being left with a very bleak view. if you are asking whether i am pessimistic for the future, the answer is yes, i am. because you do not feel human beings or human nature has changed very much since those days?
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well, i mean everything it has done, you only have to read a newspaper and it concentrates on the past. what good has it ever done us? to concentrate on the past. who has never learned anything by concentrating on the past? i was going to say it might be useful to look at the past if we could learn from the past? but can we? you are a historian, you must know more than anybody. you go back in history... is there anything that we have learned from the past? things have got worse and worse, by every generation. the only difference is that now, with the new inventions that have been made, things are not only as dangerous, they are much more dangerous. now, if there is a blowup, there is a proper blowup. you have been lauded,
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you have received accolades in the united states, across europe, czechoslovakia, the czech republic now. but also in israel. i know that you, with yourjewish heritage, you take a great interest in the search for middle east peace, in the state of the middle east today. do you see any signs of lessons being learned, of humanity understanding any better how to live in peace? in the middle east? no. no, i don't. it is depressing to say that, isn't it? well, i think the news today is depressing, yes. i think things are depressing. and, of course, the most terrible things today are occurring where civilisation is supposed to have started.
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let me ask you about religion. and your faith, if any. your parents came to britain as germanjews, and made a life in the uk. you arejewish. yes. has faith played a role in your life? for a long time, ifollowed the christian faith. and, when i was at stowe, i was baptised. i was very strong in the christian faith. and then i went to germany. and i couldn't reconcile with the fact that the church was praying for victory on both sides of the same war, that i couldn't reconcile, so i left religion altogether. explain to me then what your motivation and impulse is. throughout your life,
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notjust in the period we have discussed in the 1930s and 1940s, but in your later life, a deep commitment that you show to charitable work. you helped the elderly for many, many years. you've been a key player in a rotary club and all of its charitable works. you've worked for mental health charities. if it's not faith that drives you, what is it? ethics.
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explain that to me, what do you mean by ethics? well, you know what ethics are? values, notions of what is good. goodness, kindness, love, honesty, decency. ethics. that standard of life. i believe in ethics. and if everybody believes in ethics, we'd have no problems at all. that's the only way out. forget the religious side. before we finish, i just want to ask you a couple of questions and ask you so much about your extraordinary experiences, and are more about the fact that you have lived an extraordinarily long time. and you've seen a lot.
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you've seen extraordinary change in the world from the year of your birth in 1909. we talk about progress, we talk about economic growth, we talk about consumption and materialism. do you feel that the world today is a much better place than the one you were born into? i think the world today would like to be a better place. but, at the end of any conflict that there might be, it has got methods of mass destruction, which makes any other type of thinking impossible. you mean more than any advances in technology? the internet, tv, and everything else that we take for granted, it's the expansion of our ability to kill each other that is the most dominant change you've seen? i think fundamentally it is.
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i've never heard it put like that. but i think that is right. yes, it is the most important. do you feel that you still have a say in society? well, my only say in society is to try and preach an ethical existence. even when very, very occasionally i meet theresa may, she came up to me and say, "i have not forgotten ethics!" that is the british home secretary. yes, that's a start! you're lecturing even her now? there is no point in lecturing people who have got no authority. i want to ask you one more question, i don't mean to be depressing, there's been a lot of interesting stuff has been written in the last
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few years about death and dying, and whether human beings are frightened of dying, and whether that colours the way in which people are treated when they are old. are you frightened of dying? i've accepted the fact there is nothing there. those people who are frightened are frightened because they think there is something there. i don't think there's anything there. but that's not a frightening thought to you ? well, there would be a hell of a lot of people to be frightened with, wouldn't there? if you go back in history. sir nicholas winton, thank you very, very much for talking to me on hardtalk. thank you very much indeed.
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pleasure. hello. if you want to see what the weather has in store for the british isles in the coming days, you basicallyjust have to take a look towards the atlantic because low pressure is queueing up. this is one towards the west at the moment. it will come into play first evening and friday morning. and this innocuous looking area of cloud will explosively deepen into an area of low pressure on the weekend. more on that in a moment. first thing, a lot of cloud across the british isles. low cloud and misty and murky conditions for the majority on thursday. grey skies, and a mild start. rain to go with the cloud in central and southern england for a time on thursday morning. to the east, with a bit of brightness, a warmish afternoon. highs of 18—19. the west, early sunshine.
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replaced by cloud and rain. northern ireland, getting quite a lot of rain really through the course of the day. thursday evening and friday, that area of low pressure starts to whip up the winds, especially for the cornish coast, but anywhere for the channel coast for the small hours friday. cloud and wind and rain in the night. not the prettiest of starts to friday. most areas getting off to a grey and wet start. northern ireland seeing the best improvement through the morning. elsewhere, after a few hours, the rain will clear as you can see by lunchtime. the wind will be light. overcast, but a great improvement. 15—16 in the afternoon. temperatures just about right for this time of year. the first signs of what awaits for the weekend. explosively deepening low pressure set to bring rain and wind to almost all parts of the uk at some
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stage on the weekend. look at all of those isobars. particularly strong wind. the worst should stay in the atlantic and start to weaken on saturday. nonetheless, the risk of gales for exposed coasts. heavy rain for northern ireland. it could cause problems. rain in the south—west of england, wales, part of scotland as well. eastern areas not having too bad a day. most areas picking up showers at some stage. strong and gusty winds. i am sorry, temperatures ofjust 12 — 15 degrees. i'm rico hizon in singapore, the headlines: china's president says it's the start of a new era, but what does xi jinping's vision mean for the rest of the world? president trump denies
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a congresswoman‘s claims that he was insensitive during a phone call to the widow of a soldier killed in action. didn't say what that congresswoman said, didn't say it at all. she knows it, and she now is not saying it. i did not say what she said. i'm babita sharma in london. also in the programme: stranded and at risk of cholera, we have a special report on the rohingya muslims fleeing violence in myanmar. so many young children we are seeing here today. this has to be one of the biggest single—day influxes of refugees,
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