One of the British Jewish community’s most tireless advocates for Holocaust survivors has died due to Covid-19, having just accepted an OBE.
Lilian Black, the “dynamic” chair of the Holocaust Survivor Friendship Association, a Leeds-based charity, was praised as an “inspirational driving force” for establishing the Holocaust Heritage and Learning Centre at the University of Huddersfield.
The Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) said her creation is “a first-class memorial and education centre that teaches the Holocaust through the life stories of survivors and refugees who settled in Yorkshire”.
One of the survivors who features is Lilian’s father, Eugene, who survived Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Bergen Belsen. Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said she was “determined to honour her father’s legacy”.
Czech-born Eugene worked as slave labour in Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora, before being liberated at Bergen-Belsen, and Lilian accompanied him on his visits to schools, helping him to share his testimony with students across Bradford.
AJR chief executive Michael Newman said “through Lilian’s perseverance, some of the artefacts on display at the Learning Centre were items on loan from Belsen and other camps in Germany” as he explained how she established the institution.
“Poignantly, the day before she was hospitalised she heard the news that she had been nominated for an award in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, accepting her OBE, which she said was on behalf of the Holocaust refugee and survivor community, especially in the North of England.”
Newman described Black as “a tireless and well-loved advocate for the survivors and refugees and someone who deeply understood their needs and interests” who was “a respected, passionate and authoritative voice”.
Pollock said Black was “a friend” and “a stalwart in the field of Holocaust education and remembrance” who, through the Holocaust Survivors Friendship Association, gave Holocaust survivors in the north of England a community to turn to”.
She said that since 1996, the Association had helped survivors share their testimonies with the next generation, gathered countless documents, photographs and objects related to their stories, and ensured survivors had a support network.
“Lilian then worked hard to campaign for a permanent place of Holocaust learning and remembrance in the North. In 2018 the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre was opened, housed in the University of Huddersfield.
“She felt that the Learning Centre would help the realisation of the declaration, ‘never again.’ It was a truly remarkable achievement.”
Speaking last year, Lilian said that her father would have been amazed and proud to see the Learning Centre up and running. Pollock said: “We know how proud he was of her, and rightly so.”
Newman added: “She was a friend, sounding board and colleague to many, including me. She will be deeply missed and fondly remembered.”
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