New Year’s Honours: 30 Shoah educators and survivors recognised

New Year’s Honours: 30 Shoah educators and survivors recognised

Chair of Holocaust Educational Trust joins survivors on prestigious list, in addition to director Sam Mendes, civil servant Tamara Finkelstein and Professor Eyal Weizman

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Lef: Ruth Barnett, Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire) and John Hajdu alongside his bear that he took with him when he escaped from Hungary
Lef: Ruth Barnett, Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire) and John Hajdu alongside his bear that he took with him when he escaped from Hungary

The 2020 New Year’s Honours List marks Britain’s most far-reaching tribute yet to Holocaust survivors and educators, with almost 30 names from all over the country recognised for their contribution to preserving memories of the Shoah.

Among those honoured is the chair of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Paul Phillips, whose work is rewarded with an OBE. The Trust’s chief executive, Karen Pollock MBE, said: “A member of our board for over a decade, chairman for a number of years, Paul Phillips has been instrumental in the growth and development of the Holocaust Educational Trust. An absolute joy to work with, we could not be more delighted that his efforts have rightly been recognised. Mazeltov, Paul!”

Nine people have been honoured with an MBE for their work: Ruth Barnett, William Bergman, Maria Beate Green, John Hajdu, Mindu Hornick, Lilian Levy, Eva Neuman, Gertrude Silman, who is life president of the Holocaust Survivors Friends Association and Professor Leslie Brent (posthumously).

Holocaust survivor Mindu Hornick (Photo credit: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

A further 19 people are made medallists of the British Empire, or BEM, and not all are Jewish — the Cambodian-born Sokphal Din lost 60 members of his family to the Khmer Rouge and now works closely with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust. Another BEM honoree, Rev John Fieldsend, is a retired Anglican vicar who converted from Judaism as a young man. He was born Hans Heinrich Feige, and escaped from Prague on the Kindertransport in 1939, aged seven. with his older brother Gert, leaving behind his mother Trude and father Curt.

Karen Pollock of HET noted: “Hearing from a Holocaust survivor has a far-reaching impact. Often referred to as the most memorable lesson of the year, our survivors inspire thousands upon thousands. As the Holocaust moves from living history to just history, the determination of these survivors to relive the most difficult moments of their life in order to inform future generations has never been more important”.

Het’s Paul Phillips with Lily Ebert BEM

The Cabinet Office, which releases the Honours List, said that this year’s awards included “inspirational people who have dedicated their lives to Holocaust and genocide remembrance and education, sharing their stories with schoolchildren around the UK. As survivors, they have demonstrated extraordinary personal resilience and commitment, championing tolerance and diversity, and playing a vital role in ensuring future generations continue to learn from the past”.

Tamara Finkelstein

Several other Jewish people feature in this year’s Honours List. Film and stage director Sam Mendes, whose mother was a British Jew, is knighted for his services to drama, while high-ranking civil servant Tamara Finkelstein, most recently director-general of the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, or Defra, is made a Companion of the Order of the Bath.

Finkelstein said: “I’m very honoured to have been awarded a CB in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. I see this very much as a recognition of the amazing, talented and committed colleagues and teams I have worked with in my civil service career. The opportunity of a career in public service is a privilege that I continue to enjoy every day. Missing my parents at this moment, they would have loved to share it with me, I owe them everything.”

Haifa-born Professor Eyal Weizman receives an MBE for services to architecture, as does the chair of the Anna Freud Centre, the Hon Michael Samuel.

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