The Prince and Princess of Wales have led tributes to the "charming, charismatic and brilliant" Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper who has died on his 93rd birthday.
Zigi Shipper was a survivor of the Lodz ghetto and both the Auschwitz and Stutthof concentration camps. He arrived in the UK in 1947 and has spent over two decades sharing his testimony in schools across the country, being awarded a British Empire Medal in 2016 for his work with the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET).
Zigi was a keen football fan and in 2012, had "one of the greatest honours of his life" when he had the chance to tell his story to the England squad before the 2012 Euros, in Poland.
Five years to the day since Zigi addressed the England squad pic.twitter.com/AUbMFcE9MU— Darren Richman (@darrenrichman) June 1, 2017
In 2017, Zigi accompanied the Prince and Princess of Wales on a visit to the Stutthof concentration camp where he spoke at length with the Royal couple about what he had experienced there less than 80 years prior, leaving what Karen Pollock of HET described as a "deep and enduring impression on them both".
Paying tribute to Zigi on his passing, the Prince and Princess of Wales said: "In 2017, we had the honour to meet Holocaust survivor, Zigi Shipper on our visit to Stutthof. We were sad to learn earlier today of his passing. He will be truly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends."
Zigi Shipper pictured with the Prince and Princess of Wales and fellow survivor Manfred Goldberg on a visit to the Stutthof concentration camp in 2017
Last year, King Charles commissioned a portrait of Zigi and six fellow survivors that now hangs in Buckingham Palace, and he shared his testimony for an accompanying BBC documentary.
Paying tribute, Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust said: "How do I describe Zigi? He was the most energetic, charismatic, charming, and brilliant person to have around. A man full of spirit with a devastating story to tell about his past, yet always sharing a message of hope and love.
King Charles (then Prince of Wales) with the family of Zigi Shipper and the artist Jenny Saville (right) at an exhibition of Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust, which were commissioned by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales to pay tribute to Holocaust survivors, at The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace on January 24, 2022 in London. (Photo by Arthur Edwards - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
"Zigi Shipper was born in 1930 in Lodz, Poland and in 1940 was forced to move into the Lodz Ghetto where he was made to work in a metal factory. In 1944, when the Ghetto was liquidated, Zigi was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. After a few weeks, he was moved to Stutthof concentration camp before being sent on a death march in 1945. He was liberated by British troops on 3rd May 1945 and came to the UK in 1947. Here he met his wife Jeannette and had two daughters. He had a big family of which he was hugely proud.
"I adored Zigi and will miss him. He was part of the HET family and will leave such a huge gap in all of our hearts. May his memory be a blessing."
"He was a man with wonderful, wonderful energy and humanity, and I pay tribute to him for his work... We must never forget the Holocaust"— The Jewish Chronicle (@JewishChron) January 18, 2023
Prime Minister @RishiSunak has lead tributes to Zigi Shipper in the House of Commons after @BobBlackman informed MPs of his passing. pic.twitter.com/X5LMj0ToYr
Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis also paid tribute to Zigi, writing: "I have known few people blessed with the innate warmth and charm of Zigi Shipper BEM. He was known as a survivor and an educator but, above all, he was a true Mensch who, despite the darkness he had endured, brought incredible light to the world. May his memory be for a blessing."
Olivia Marks-Woldman, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, described Zigi as "a man who lit up a room with his charm and personality".
She said: "I never had a conversation with him without him being cheeky, without his eyes twinkling at me or without his broad smile lighting his face. All of us at HMDT are deeply saddened to learn of his death today, his 93rd birthday.
Zigi Shipper pictured as a young man (Photo courtesy of Holocaust Educational Trust)
"Zigi survived the horrors of the Lodz ghetto in Poland and several concentration camps including Auschwitz-Birkenau. He then dedicated his life to speaking about his experiences. ‘There is nothing we can do about the past, but we can do a lot about the present and the future,’ he often said.
"Much has been said, and much will surely continue to be said about Zigi, a man who witnessed so much darkness during the Holocaust and yet spread so much light. We will miss his joyful, and compassionate presence very sorely and send our love and condolences to his family."
Zigi Shipper spent over two decades speaking in schools, educating the next generations about the horrors of the Holocaust (Photo courtesy of the Holocaust Educational Trust)
The Association of Jewish Refugees said that it was "deeply saddened" to hear of Zigi's passing, saying: "His amazing story of resilience and hope, combined with his charm, humour and kindness won the hearts of thousands of young people who invariably commented that they would carry forward his story and his simple, enduring message –don’t hate."
Lord Ian Austin described news of his passing as "terrible", adding: "Zigi Shipper BEM was a great man and taught many thousands of young people where hatred and racism can lead, including in Dudley where he spoke several times."
With the blessing of his family, The Holocaust Education Trust invites you to share your memories of the amazing Zigi Shipper BEM.
You can contribute at RememberingZigi@het.org.uk