In 1988, Nicholas Winton's wife revealed to the BBC his long-kept secret: He'd saved 669 children from the Nazis at the dawn of World War II through his organization of the Czech Kindertransport. (This clip is from a BBC program that honored the "British Schindler" by inviting some 80 of the children he saved to surprise him in the audience.) In all, more than 5,000 people owe their lives to Winton.
In the more than two decades since the media got wind of his humanitarian exploits, Winton has been knighted, had a minor planet named after him, been commemorated by two statues -- one each in Prague and London -- and been the subject of three films and a play.
Winton still wears a ring given to him by some of the children he saved. It is inscribed with a line from the Talmud, the book of Jewish law: "Save one life, save the world." He celebrates his 103rd birthday this week.