​Passage: A savior of Holocaust refugees

Sir Nicholas Winton, who died on Wed., July 1, 2015, at age 106, rescued more than 650 European children - many of them Jewish - from almost certain death at the hands of the Nazis.

CBS News

It happened this past week -- the passing of a World War II-era hero who spent much of his life unrecognized.

For we learned of the death outside London this past Wednesday of Nicholas Winton.

A stockbroker by trade, Winton went to Czechoslovakia in December of 1938 to try and save the children of refugees fleeing Nazi Germany's advance ... a mission for which he admitted to "60 Minutes" last year he had no relevant experience:

"I work on the motto that if something is not impossible, there must be a way of doing it," he said.

And find a way of doing it he did.

Beginning in March of 1939, Winton arranged through bribery and guile to have seven trainloads of young refugees pass through Germany to Holland, where a ferry carried them to safety in England.

Their parents had to be left behind, most never to be seen again.

In all, Winton saved 669 children, most of them Jews.

In the years that followed, Nicholas Winton resumed his quiet stockbroker's life, his wartime exploits coming to light many years later only after his wife discovered a hidden notebook detailing his rescue efforts.

On a 1988 BBC broadcast he was reunited with many of the by-then middle-aged refugees he had saved.

And in 2003 he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

In that "60 Minutes" broadcast he was asked why he had kept his selfless deeds secret for so many years: "I didn't really keep it secret," he said. "I just didn't talk about it."

Nicholas Winton was a remarkable 106 years old.