Chief Rabbi pays tribute to 'beacon of light' Zigi Shipper in HMD message

The Holocaust survivor was 'determined to be positive'


The Chief Rabbi has paid tribute to Holocaust survivor and “beacon of light” Zigi Shipper a week after he died on his 93rd birthday.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Thought For The Day, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Mr Shipper “devoted his life” to educating others about the Shoah and “urging everyone to appreciate our common humanity.”

“He conveyed the message that the Holocaust was unique in its origins, its scale and the depth of its evil perpetrated by cultured and sophisticated people,” he added.

Relating the story of how Mr Shipper survived the Shoah, he told radio listeners: “A finger pointing to the left meant slave labour, to the right immediate death. It was 1944, 14-year-old Zigi Shipper, who had survived the Lodz ghetto arrived in Auschwitz Birkenau.

“He was sent to the right, the gas chambers, but inexplicably he was pulled from his group and sent in the opposite direction to be subjected to forced labour instead. 

“Zigi had lost touch with his entire extended family but he went on to survive the horrors of Auschwitz and then the Stutthof concentration camp. 

“He endured the torture of a Nazi death march and suffered with life-threatening typhus before being liberated in 1945. 

“Two years later out of the blue Zigi received a letter from a Polish Jewish woman in England. She explained that she had survived the Holocaust, she was searching for her son, and she was excited to find his name on a British Red Cross list. 

“She asked Zigi to check if he had a scar on his left wrist, having been burnt when he was two. He did, and that's how Zigi came to England to be reunited with his mother.”

Like many Holocaust survivors, Chief Rabbi Mirvis added, Mr Shipper was “determined to be positive.”

“He was a beacon of light with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. His wit and warmth were infectious.”

The tribute follows a string of speeches during Parliament’s annual Holocaust Memorial Day debate in which MPs hailed Mr Shipper’s commitment to Shoah education.

Leading the discussion, former chancellor Sajid Javid said he was glad to have invited the “late and great” Mr Shipper to dinner in Downing Street.

When leaving, Mr Javid said, the elderly survivor turned to his wife and jokingly asked: “what are you doing with that rogue when you could be with me instead?”

Paying tribute to Mr Shipper 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."

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