Holocaust survivors among the stars and celebrities on 2020 New Year's Honours List

Film director Sam Mendes received a knighthood and architect Eyal Weizman was awarded an OBE


Twelve Holocaust survivors were among the stars, celebrities and national treasures named on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. 

Among the survivors to be recognised were Ruth Barnett and William Bergman, who received MBEs (Members of the British Empire) for services to Holocaust Education. 

British film director Sam Mendes, director of the National Theatre’s smash hit The Lehman Trilogy, received a knighthood for services to drama.

Professor Eyal Weizman, a British Israeli architect, was awarded a OBE for services to architecture.

Prof Weizman, of Forensic Architecture, a London-based research organisation that uses modern technology to search urban areas, recently used accounts from officers and records of the shooting of Mark Duggan to recreate a virtual model of the scene.

Tamara Finkelstein, secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was awarded an Order of the Bath for public service.

Ms Finkelstein, who is a member of New North London Synagogue, is the sister of JC columnist Daniel Finkelstein.

Leslie Brent, a leading immunologist, died last week at 94, was awarded a OBE for services to Holocaust Education and the Field of Immunology and Organ Transplantation. He arrived in the UK in 1938 on the very first Kindertransport.

Mr Brent spoke last year in Westminster Abbey to mark the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht – and was made Professor Emeritus at the University of London in 1990.

Maria Beate Green also received an OBE for her service to Holocaust Education, while 82-year-old John Hajdu and Mindu Hornick, 90, were awarded MBEs for services to Holocaust education and commemoration.

Ms Barnett, who teaches young people about the Holocaust with the Holocaust Educational Trust, was born in 1935 in Berlin, Germany. Her father, Robert Michaelis, was a Jewish judge living in the city with his non-Jewish wife and two children. 

Ms Barnett arrived in Britain on the Kindertransport aged four with her seven-year-old brother, while her father fled to Shanghai when Nazi persecution began. 

The 84-year-old tells young people about her story and how her mother remain trapped in Berlin and was one of those to take part in the Rosenstraße protest, in which around 200 non-Jewish German women who were married to Jewish men demonstrated outside a building where many of their husbands had been interned by the Gestapo. 

Speaking to the JC about the award, she said felt “honoured and my family feel it even more so, as they have always supported my work in Holocaust education and are inspired to promote it further.

“My daughter, Tania, already joins me in talking with school groups when she can and intends to carry forward the family history when I can no longer do so.”

Ms Barnett said she has “given 966 talks on my family story in the context of war and genocide, both predating the Holocaust and continuing today. I hope to reach 1000 in 2020.”

In 2015, Ms Barnett, who is a member of the Beyond Ukip group, protested against the party's policies and its then leader, Nigel Farage.

Mrs Barnett, who lives in north London, told the JC she wanted to protest against policies and people who “are stirring up hatred towards immigrants. It seems we are still not learning the lessons of the Holocaust.”

She said: "I was a vulnerable minority group as a child and I’ve spent my life protesting and campaigning for similar groups.”

Survivors Manfred Goldberg, Dorit Oliver-Wolff, Ingrid Wuga, Henry Schahter and Marc Schatzberger received BEMs (British Empire Medals) in the honours list. 

Mr Goldberg, a German-born survivor, educates young people up and down the country about his childhood spent in concentration camps.

Mr Goldberg lost his infant brother shortly after they were transported to the Riga ghetto in Latvia — he worked as a slave labourer in a series of camps and survived a “death march” after the Stutthof camp was abandoned before being liberated in May 1945.

Mr Goldberg was one of many to tell his story this year as part of the BBC2’s extraordinary documentary, The Last Survivors.

He spoke movingly about his little brother Herman, who disappeared one day in the concentration camp where Manfred and his mother worked as slave labourers.

For decades he clung to the hope that one day they might be reunited.

Viewers of the doumentary watched as he went back to Kassel, the town where the family once lived, for the dedication of stolpersteine —small memorial plaques, set into the pavement — outside their old home.

His brother’s life and death had been publicly acknowledged and he was able to say Kaddish for him.

Husband and wife Peter and Marianne Summerfield were also awarded BEMs alongside Simon Winston, Susie Barnett and Uri Winterstein. 

Mr Summerfield was born in Berlin in 1933, four months after Hitler came to power. 

In August 1939 the family managed to escape Berlin on the last train before war was declared. They left with only their hand luggage and managed to rebuild their life in Britain. 

After the war he completed two years’ National Service in the British Army, including time on active service in Egypt. He then went on to study Law at Oxford and qualified as a solicitor. 

He has been married to Marianne for more than 40 years. Between them they have five children and 12 grandchildren.

His wife was born in Breslau Germany, now known as Wroclaw in Poland, in July 1938. 

Mrs Summerfield’s parents were fired from their jobs in the legal profession because they were Jewish and her father was arrested on Kristallnacht and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. 

But her mother managed to persuade a Nazi guard to release her husband. 

Her father went on to work in a starch factory which had connections to England, allowing the family to get a sponsorship and move there.

Gisela Feldman, 96 and Sonja Sternberg, 93, who are sisters and members of the Menorah Synagogue in Wythenshawe, Manchester, also receive the BEM for their work International Holocaust Education.

They tried to flee the Nazis on the SS St Louis, the passenger ship that was refused entry to safe countries including the United States and had to take its passengers back to Europe, where hundreds were murdered in the Holocaust.

"It is important that the next generation learn about the Holocaust because what happened to us is still happening today and not just to Jewish people," Mrs Feldman told the BBC.

Henry Schachter was also awarded an OBE for services to Holocaust Education and Awareness.

Mr Schachter, who is 80 and lives in Bournemouth, speaks to schools, and community groups, about his experience during the Holocaust.

He was sent to live with a Christian family who kept him safe from the Nazis, while his parents were captured and forced on death matches.

He last saw his parents on his fifth birthday. His mother was taken to Bergen-Belsen while his father was shot dead whilst trying to escape from Flossenberg.

A spokesperson for HET congratulated all the survivors, wishing them a “hearty mazeltov for an honour well deserved.

“Hearing from a Holocaust survivor has a far-reaching impact. Often referred to as the most memorable lesson of the year, our survivors inspire thousands upon thousands. 

“As the Holocaust moves from living history to just history, the determination of these survivors to relive the most difficult moments of their life in order to inform future generations has never been more important.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of HET, said: “I am thrilled that so many Holocaust survivors have been recognised for their vital work and I hope that entering the 75th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust, all those who share their testimonies will receive the honours they so truly warrant.”

Also awarded for his services to Holocaust Education and Awareness was HET chairman Paul Phillips, who received an OBE.

Ms Pollock added: “Paul Phillips has been instrumental in the growth and development of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

"An absolute joy to work with, we could not be more delighted that his efforts have rightly been recognised. Mazeltov Paul!”

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said she was “delighted” that so many survivors of the Holocaust have been recognised in the New Year Honours List.

“Having experienced unthinkable trauma and loss at the hands of the Nazis, these remarkable individuals now dedicate so much of their time to sharing their testimony,” she said. 

Ms Marks-Woldman said it was a fitting time to honour the survivors “almost 75 years after the liberation of the most notorious Nazi death camp, Auschwitz.”

She added: “We are also delighted to see survivors of more recent genocides recognised for their tireless work to share their experiences across the UK."

In the north Gertrude Silman, who is the life president of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA) was made an MBE for services to Holocaust Education.

The 90-year-old, from Leeds told the Yorkshire Evening Post she was surprised to be made an MBE.

She said: “It is a surprise but a very pleasant one. I have done voluntary work all of my life. It goes back to someone many years ago saying to me, ‘people helped you, so you have to give something back’ and I took that to heart.”

Annette Henley, a member of the Rambam Sephardi Synagogue in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, received an MBE for services to Raising Awareness of Mental Health Issues.

Ms Henley, who has worked at the Home Office for over 25 years and is  the lead engineer for Infrastructure at the National Communications Data Service, worked to set up a mental health network within the Civil Service, and also works alongside the community’s mental health charity JAMI.

Alan Lehmann was awarded a CBE for his services to medical science and to patients and families affected by xeroderma pigmentosum and Cockayne syndrome.

Professor Lehmann, a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), is research professor of molecular genetics whose research has helped to show how cells are able to repair damaged DNA.

His research has also shown how repair processes can go wrong in patients with certain genetic disorders.

The Royal Society said: “His work has furthered our understanding of the links between DNA repair and cancer.

“He identified a faulty gene that is responsible for the skin condition xeroderma pigmentosum (XP), which causes extreme sensitivity to sunlight and a strong predisposition to skin cancer.

“He subsequently showed how mutations in the same gene can cause two other conditions that are clinically very different from XP.”


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