Google Doodle honors Nicholas Winton, who saved Czech Jewish children

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 19.05.2020 10:28:43 (updated on 19.05.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

The doodle on the main page of search engine Google is in honor of Sir Nicholas Winton, who would have been 111 years old today. The black-and-white watercolor-style illustration shows a young Winton at Prague’s main train station sending some children onto a train.

The doodle can be seen in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Britain, Greece, Latvia, Iceland and Canada. Google often puts a special graphic on its home page. The graphic can be seen either worldwide or in a limited number of countries, depending on its relevance. Clicking on the image takes you to more information on the topic.

“Today’s Doodle celebrates the 111th birthday of British humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized the escape of over 600 children from German-occupied Czechoslovakia in the lead-up to World War II,” Google said.

In 1938, Winton was in Prague when war was looming. Instead of going on a planned ski vacation, he started a rescue effort to transport primarily Jewish children to Britain. “The dangerous operation required Winton and his collaborators to find homes for the children with British families, raise money, bribe officials, and even forge documents. In March 1939, the first train left Prague, and over the next few months, a total of 669 children were rescued to safety,” Google said. The number of children saved would have even been higher, but a final train was prevented from leaving because the war had started.

nicholas Winton
Nicholas Winton in Prague in 2007 / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

His efforts remained secret for half a century, until his wife found some documents about the rescue train in their attic. “Today, Winton’s story serves as a shining example of the power of selfless action to bring about incredible change,” Google said. His story became known to the public after the BBC television made a documentary about him in 1988.

One of his sayings was: “Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and do some good.”

Winton died July 1, 2015, at the age of 106. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2002, and had been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Slovak-born director Matej Mináč has shot several films based on Winton’s story: the 1999 feature film All My Loved Ones (1999), the 2002 Emmy-winning documentary Power of Good: Nicholas Winton (2002) and the 2011 documentary Nicky’s Family (2011), with acted sequences.

In 1998, Winton received a high Czech state decoration, the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. An asteroid was named for him in 1998 as well by two Czech astronomers at the Kleť Observatory in south Bohemia.

His fame has also spread to the US. In 2013 he was honored with a plaque in Illinois. Two of the people he saved were on hand for the ceremony, but Winton’s doctors urged him not to travel. Winton has long been a member of Rotary International, a service organization. He was the first inductee to the Rotarian Peace Hall of Fame, located in the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois.

On the 70th anniversary of the rescue trains in 2009, a statue of Sir Nicholas was unveiled at Prague’s main train station Hlavní nádraží. A train with some of people that he saved went from Prague to London to mark the anniversary. Winton met the arriving train.

Another statue is at the Maidenhead railway station in England, where Sir Nicholas is a member and former president of the Maidenhead Rotary Club.

For his 100th birthday Winton flew in a micro-light plane at the White Waltham Airfield in Berkshire, UK. Judy Leden, a world champion hang-glider and micro-light pilot whose mother was saved by him, took him on a flight.

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