Tributes were paid this week to Josef Perl, who survived seven Nazi camps, following his death aged 88.
Born in Veliky Bochov, then part of Czechoslovakia, Perl was the only son in a large, Orthodox family. When the Hungarian Army invaded in 1940, the Jewish population was forced into the town’s synagogue, from where they were marched to waiting cattle wagons which were to take them to Poland.
Arriving at a makeshift camp and living in the most appalling conditions, he helped his family by foraging for food. While looking for food the camp was cleared and Josef spent the next 18 months searching for his family in ghettos and towns. He was caught and taken to a forest where he witnessed Jews being shot, among them were his mother and sisters.
Enduring Płaszów slave labour camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen, he was a slave labourer at Balkenheim where he took part in an attempted uprising. He was sent on a death march to Buchenwald. American troops liberated the camp on 11 April, when Josef was 15 years old. After liberation, Josef attempted to return home, but was met by a neighbour who demanded that he leave or he would ‘finish Hitler’s job for him.’
Josef came to England in 1946, where he met his wife Sylvia and had two children. Miraculously, 20 years later, he was reunited with his father.
The Holocaust Educational Trust’s Karen Pollock said: “After he retired, Josef dedicated his time to ensuring that the world would never forget what happened to him, his family and the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. He exuded a quiet strength and kindness that always shone through, even when talking about the darkest of times. He will be greatly missed.”