Two British heroes were handed posthumous medals for rescuing victims of the Shoah by the communities secretary James Brokenshire.
Joan Stiebel MBE and Lady Rose L Henriques became the 40th and 41st recipients of the British Heroes of the Holocaust award on Tuesday afternoon.
Stiebel and Lady Rose were both honoured at an emotional ceremony held at the world’s oldest Holocaust archive, the Wiener Library in London.
Stiebel, who passed away in 2007, received the medal for helping bringing Jewish orphans from concentration camps to the UK before they became known in the press as the “Boys”.
Retired Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, who spoke at the event, honoured Stiebel. “Joan Stiebel came from a Jewish family but she did not identify as a Jew. She was almost stereotypically English.
“She was lowkey, a little reserved, believed that most things were made better by a cup of tea and her gentle teasing sense of humour.”
Meanwhile Henriques, who died in 1972, was a British artist and social and charity worker in the East End.
She travelled to Germany after the war ended, where she worked with Jewish welfare groups at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the nearby displaced persons camp.
Lord Pickles, who honoured Lady Rose, said: “Welfare work with displaced persons […] occupied Rose until 1950 when Bergen Belsen closed down and most Jewish displaced persons emigrated to the newly founded state of Israel or the US.”
He read a message aloud written by Lady Rose’s nephew. “She kept in ever present touch with the realities of the day, often moved to tears by the tragedies that she had encountered, never did she fail to respond to those who were affected by illness or constrained by poverty.
“She was perhaps happiest when leading her girls to rumble in the countryside, teaching them to swim or laughing heartily with them as they sang the songs that she had written.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Brokenshire said: “We can draw real inspiration from the women awarded British Heroes of the Holocaust medals today.
“They refused to turn away and leave it to others to do the right thing. Instead they took on personal responsibility and their courage and human compassion saved many lives.
“I hope these medals will ensure their legacy is never forgotten and will inspire us all to confront injustice, bigotry and hatred.”
Holocaust Educational Trust chief executive Karen Pollock, who attended the event, told the audience: “Today, as we honour those who took extraordinary steps to save Jewish lives, going above and beyond what others did, we pledge to redouble our efforts to ensure a long-lasting legacy.”