A Holocaust survivor who witnessed Kristallnacht and later won improved pensions for his Kindertransport peers as their UK spokesman has died aged 93.
German-born Hermann Hirschberger came to the UK as a teenager, celebrating his bar mitzvah in a hostel before training to be an engineer and later helping to found Belmont Synagogue.
On retirement he became a campaigner, successfully arguing that the Kinder should benefit from a British state pension despite missing the opportunity to pay National Insurance premiums.
He chaired a Kindertransport special interest group within the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) and in 2007 oversaw the creation of a unique survey charting the lives and journeys of 1,450 Kinder, helping statisticians, analysts and historians.
At the dedication of the Kindertransport statue at Liverpool Street Station, he replied on behalf of the Kinder, and later spoke on their behalf at the Clarence House gathering of the Kindertransport Group in the presence of Prince Charles.
Both his parents, who realised that there was no future for Jews in Germany after witnessing the horrors of Kristallnacht, were killed at Auschwitz in 1942 but not before ensuring Hermann escaped on a Kindertransport train.
“Until poor health prevented him doing so, Hermann regularly spoke to school pupils about his experiences fleeing Karlsruhe, his town of birth in Germany, on a Kindertransport and was a regular attendee at our Kindertransport lunches,” said an AJR spokesman this week. “We send our heartfelt wishes to his family.”
Holocaust Educational Trust Chief Executive, Karen Pollock MBE, said Hirschberger, “until poor health.. was a regular speaker in schools sharing his testimony inspiring the next generation. Herman was not only a charming and charismatic man but also a determined one. Campaigning for more than 14 years, thanks to his efforts Herman was eventually successful in securing pension payments for British Kindertransport evacuees from the German government.
”I and all of us at the Holocaust Educational Trust have very fond memories of Herman and will miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Marie van der Zyl, Board of Deputies President, also paid tribute, saying: “Hermann Hirschberger was a committed campaigner whose efforts to secure pension rights for Kindertransport survivors enhanced the later lives of many of his fellow refugees. He was also a devoted member of Belmont United Synagogue and served as its Deputy with distinction. He will be remembered with great fondness.”