Arise, Sir Ben! Shoah survivor knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace
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Arise, Sir Ben! Shoah survivor knighted by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace

Educators praise his 'determination, dedication and unparalleled perseverance' in teaching future generations about the Holocaust

Sir Ben Helfgott is made a Knight Bachelor of the British Empire by the Prince of Wales during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham palace, London.
Sir Ben Helfgott is made a Knight Bachelor of the British Empire by the Prince of Wales during an Investiture ceremony at Buckingham palace, London.

One of British Jewry’s most well-known survivors was honoured by the heir to the throne yesterday.

Holocaust survivor and former Olympian Sir Ben Helfgott received his knighthood at Buckingham Palace from Prince Charles.

A day before his 89th birthday, the former champion weightlifter was praised for his “determination, dedication and unparalleled perseverance”, as he was honoured for his contribution to services to Holocaust remembrance and education.

Karen Pollock , Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said it was “marvellous news and so deserved.”

She said Sir Ben “helped shape Holocaust education in the UK, campaigned for a memorial in London and for a national day to remember the Holocaust.

“His forthright approach to never forgetting the Holocaust has gained him admiration from Prime Ministers, Royalty and even the England Football Squad.”

“The determination, dedication and unparalleled perseverance that Ben exudes, inspires us all. He is a true champion. Mazel Tov, Sir Ben!”

Sir Ben Helfgott receives his knighthood from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT), said Ben “is an extraordinary individual and we are so pleased that the legacy of his work has been recognised with today’s knighthood.”

“After experiencing unthinkable pain and loss when he was young, he has dedicated so much time to making sure the suffering he endured will not be repeated.”

She said HMDT is “so grateful to Ben for his support, friendship and contribution to our work, and I am personally grateful for his advice and guidance.”

Chair of the ’45 Aid Society, Angela Cohen, said they are “delighted and extremely proud that our very own President and former Chairman, Sir Ben Helfgott, has been recognised with this well deserved honour.

“Having been brought over to the UK with 731 other ‘Boys’ in 1945 by the Central British Fund after losing all of his family in the Holocaust apart from his sister Mala, he has devoted his life to Holocaust education, telling his story tirelessly to ensure that what he and other survivors endured should never happen again”.

Sir Ben, who survived Buchenwald, Schlieben and Theresienstadt camps, was integral to efforts to establish a national Holocaust Memorial Day, serving as the president of the HMDT, and he was a member of the Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission, whose work led to the development of a new national Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens.

Ben is also President of the 45 Aid Society – known as ‘The Boys’ – for Holocaust survivors, having served as its chairman for over half a century, and in 2017 received the lifelong dedication award from the Holocaust Education Trust for his work with schools over 30 years.

In June, Sir Ben told Jewish News he was “choked” after hearing about the award in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

“I didn’t expect it,” he said. “All my life I’ve worked to educate about the Holocaust and will continue to do so.”

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