Holocaust survivor Helen Aronson has urged society to “speak up” about genocide and “ensure these things never happen again”, as she accepted an award from Jewish Care this week.
Aronson, 92, was named as the recipient of Jewish Care’s Topland Business Luncheon Award, held at Grosvenor House Hotel, in Park Lane on Wednesday afternoon.
More than 800 people attended the event, which helped raise £320,000 to support Jewish Care’s vital services and featured Tony Pidgley, founder and chairman of UK property developer Berkeley Group Holdings, in conversation with James Harding, former director of BBC news and current affairs.
Recent past winners of the prestigious award include Ali Durban and Sarah Sultman, founders of Gesher School for children with special educational needs, mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin and Mavis Hyman, who set up a counter-extremism charity after her daughter, Miriam, was killed in the 7/7 London bombings.
Aronson was just 15-years-old when she was sent from her home town in Pabjanice, Poland, to Lodz ghetto.
She, her mother and brother were among a handful of 750 survivors of slave labour out of some 250,000 who entered the ghetto.
Her father, Motush, to whom she dedicated her award, volunteered to accompany the children of her town when the Nazis separated them from their parents and loaded them onto trucks bound for an unknown destination, which turned out to be Chelmno concentration camp.
Aronson said: “His unselfish action and lack of thought for his own safety, is the real definition of “heroism”. He is, and always will be, my “unsung hero”.”
A much-loved member of Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors Centre, which supports more than 500 survivors a year, Aronson never spoke about her experiences until 1992, when she felt compelled to give her first full oral testimony to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Since then, she has shared her story with audiences of all ages and appeared in films and documentaries about the Holocaust and the Lodz Ghetto.
She was recently named in the Queen’s Honours List and awarded the British Empire Medal for her services to Holocaust education.
Aronson added: “As long as I am able to do so, I will carry on speaking to young people about the Holocaust and I ask all of you here to speak up too.
“Tell everyone about the Holocaust and other genocides that have happened since then. It is vital that we all do everything in our power to ensure that these things never happen again, anywhere in the world.”
Daniel Carmel- Brown, chief executive of Jewish Care, said the charity was “honoured” to give this year’s award to Aronson, adding she has, “dedicated so much to Holocaust education, something that is so important not just to our community, but to the world.”