Survivor's story: Ben Helfgott

By Robyn Rosen, January 28, 2010

Ben Helfgott went through “hell” during the Holocaust — and 70 years on, his life is still consumed by it.

Mr Helfgott, 79, was a boy when the Nazis invaded his Polish home town of Piotrkow, Lodz. He was moved to a ghetto, the first in Europe, in November 1939 and worked in a glass factory. At one point, SS guards marched into the factory and rounded up anyone they believed was Jewish. The man in charge saved his life by telling the SS men that he was Polish.

In 1943, his sister and mother were taken from the ghetto to the woods and shot along with 520 others. The following year he and his father were moved to Buchenwald.

Mr Helfgott was eventually transported to Theresienstadt in April 1945. Three weeks later it was liberated. He subsequently discovered that his father had been shot a few days before the end of the war attempting to flee a death march.

He has been chairman for 47 years of the ’45 Aid Society, an association formed by and for the 732 young people who arrived in England in 1945 from Nazi Europe.

“I’m involved with every aspect of the Holocaust today, from education to survivors,” he said. “I have never hidden my background because I always believed it was very important for people to know. The Holocaust is something that is part of me. I feel very close to those people who didn’t survive. How can I forget them?”

For more on Holocaust Memorial Day 2011 see our dedicated HMD page

Last updated: 3:39pm, January 27 2011