Holocaust survivor Iby Knill has been awarded an honourary doctorate by the University of Huddersfield for helping to educate more than 50,000 schoolchildren.
Iby, 93, was too ill to attend the ceremony, so her grand-daughter Julia received the award on her behalf, delivering an address to students penned by her grand-mother.
It read: “I consider this award not just a personal honour, but an honour to all the others who stand as witnesses to how far human cruelty can go.”
Iby, who lives in Leeds, survived Auschwitz and married a British officer, coming to England in 1947, but it was only half a century later that she felt able to speak about her experiences in the camps.
In her address to graduating students, she empathised with the problems facing millions of refugees today, explaining the difficulties she had in making a life for herself in a new country.
“It took people like me five years to acquire the language, create relationships, establish new homes and find work,” she said. “Our task was massive and it played itself out all over Europe and the Middle East. Eventually, we were accepted.”
She hit out at the “us-and-them syndrome that allows us to fear anyone who is different, seeing them as the enemy,” adding: “We forget that difference is valuable, and makes us all interesting. It enriches life. We have to learn to live together and value each other. Standing by on the other side is not an option.”
University Chancellor Professor Tim Thornton said new funding, totalling almost £1 million, will lead to a joint project the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association and the creation of the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre for the North. It will open in late 2017 by the University’s Heritage Quay archive centre.