Holocaust survivors and Limmud founder recognised in New Year's honours list


Holocaust survivors turned educators, a founder of Limmud and a former chairman of Ajex have all been recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list.

Clive Lawton was made an OBE for his services to the Jewish community, “particularly through Limmud UK.”

Mr Lawton, who co-founded the cross-communal learning charity in 1980, said that his first thought on learning of the honour “was to regret that my parents weren't here because the British empire was very dear to them - my mother was a Gibraltarian.”

Mr Lawton, who this week was attending the annual Limmud conference in Birmingham, added that “overall, it's wonderful that people can be recognised for their contribution to the Jewish community.”

Despite his unconventional dress - he still wears sandals in mid-winter - he described himself as "a pillar of the establishment from the beginning," having worked for the Board of Deputies, headed a Jewish day school and run the Jewish Continuity project.

"People try to put you in a particular box, to label you. I've tried not to let that happen. Limmud embodies who I am," he said.

"Limmud has cracked it here again. It can and does accommodate all kinds of Jews - people of every age and every stripe.

“The values are the same as they were at the beginning and although it is much bigger, you can see all the elements in the first couple of programmes back in the '80s."

Susan Pollack was made an MBE for services to Holocaust Education for her work supporting Holocaust Memorial Day.

She was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau as a teenager. She survived but her parents and dozens of relatives were murdered.

Ms Pollack has recounted her story in schools and at events for nearly 30 years. She testified at the trial of the Auschwitz guard Oskar Groening earlier this year, and is a member of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Legacy Group of survivors.

She said: “I have been honoured as an Auschwitz survivor and somebody who has told my story for many years, but I have also been honoured as part of a dedicated team of people who work to strengthen our resolve for a fairer, safer future, and to learn lessons from the Holocaust and more recent genocides.”

Agnes Grunwald-Spier was appointed an MBE for services to the Jewish community and Holocaust awareness.

She said: “Naturally I am absolutely thrilled. Lots of people do what I have done but don’t get acknowledged. The award also acknowledges the importance of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the work it does.”

Mrs Grunwald-Spier was born in Budapest in 1944, and narrowly avoided being sent to Auschwitz as a baby. She has published two books about the history of the Holocaust, and served as a trustee of the HMD Trust.

Freddie Knoller was one of several Holocaust survivors who were honoured.

The 94-year-old, who endured the death march from Auschwitz, was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to Holocaust education and awareness.

The survivor fought with the French resistance until he was betrayed to the Nazis by an ex-girlfriend and was held at Auschwitz for two years before being liberated from Bergen-Belsen.

The Austrian native, who lives in north London, said he has told his story at 385 schools since 2002, and pledged to keep touring the country to share his experiences.

“This is my life; this is where I feel that what I’m doing is important. Talking at schools keeps me young. I don’t consider myself an old man - even at the young age of 94, I still go to schools at least once a week.”

Mr Knoller said the recognition was “fantastic. What an incredible honour. It's so wonderful to be honoured in this way, especially as it's because I’m still telling the world what happened during the Holocaust. It's important that the world never forgets.”

And he said that his wife Freda, with whom he will celebrate 65 years of marriage on December 31, was also “so excited” about the award, which was the perfect anniversary present.

“We are still together and we are still in love with each other. My life is wonderful while I’m still together with my wife. I recommend marriage very much; I tell that to the children when I go into schools.”

Auschwitz survivor Ivor Perl was awarded a BEM for services to Holocaust education. Mr Perl works with the HMD Trust.

He said: “I’m pleased and thrilled. I had a choice of countries to go to after the war in 1945, but I never really realised how lucky I was that I chose Britain.

Hungarian-born Mr Perl also gave evidence at the trial Oskar Groening in 2015.

He said: “Holocaust education is more important than ever. There have been many other atrocities but none of them can equate to what happened to the Jewish people. We should never ease up on teaching about it.”

Survivor Zigi Shipper has worked with the Holocaust Educational Trust for around 20 years and received a BEM for his services to Holocaust Education and awareness.

“When I saw the envelope I started crying before I opened it. I knew it must be something like it,” he said.

“What I do now, I feel I owe it to the people who didn’t survive. I was lucky to get involved in HET. I get so much out of it.”

At 85 years old Mr Shipper, from Bushey, still travels around the country speaking to schools about his experience, usually fitting in one or two talks each week.

He was born in Lodz, Poland in 1930. In 1940 he and his grandparents were forced to move into the Lodz Ghetto.

He was sent to Auschwitz and then onto Stutthof concentration camp. After the war he was sent to a displaced persons camp and finally arrived in the UK in 1947.

Mr Shipper said: “My original intention was to go to Israel. But today Britain is my country. I would never live anywhere else.”

The Radlett United Synagogue member lives with his wife Jeanette and has two daughters, six grandchildren and one great-grand-son.

Holocaust survivors Chaim Ferster from Salford, Jack Kagan, Rudi Oppenheimer and Renee Salt, all from London, were honoured with British Empire Medals for services to Holocaust education.

Lily Ebert, who was deported from Hungary to Auschwitz in 1944 and has told her story in three different films for the HMD Trust, was also awarded a BEM for services to Holocaust education and awareness.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the HMD Trust, said she was delighted the Queen had honoured the organisation’s volunteers.

“For many survivors the Queen has embodied the welcome and opportunities they found here in Britain, where they came to rebuild their lives. These awards recognise the individual contributions that Lily, Susan, Ivor and Agnes have made; but they also recognise the contributions that all survivors make to the UK, and honour the memory of the millions of people who did not survive the Holocaust.”

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “As we approach the end of this year's 70th anniversary commemorations [of the end of the war and the liberation of the camps], what could be more fitting than honouring the survivors in this way. These inspirational men and women, who have been through so much, continue to share their stories so that future generations know about the horrors of the past.”

Artist Trevor Avery received a British Empire Medal for services to heritage in the Lake District. Mr Avery is director of the Lake District Holocaust Project which tells the story of the 300 child survivors who came from Eastern Europe to the Lake District in 1945.

Elsewhere, Manchester businessman Norman Stoller has been knighted for his philanthropic service.

The former high sheriff of Greater Manchester, who has previously been made an MBE, OBE and CBE, created the Stoller Charitable Trust in the 1980s, since when the organisation has donated millions to good causes throughout the north-west.

Mr Stoller said he could not have achieved so much without the rest of his team at the trust, which has given £50m to various charities over the last 12 months.

“As in all successful enterprises, it takes sound management, planning and attention to detail to bring great projects to fruition,” he said.

“We don’t give money away, we give money back. It’s a joy that we have the privilege of giving; it’s life-enhancing”.

Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women vice-president Jeffrey Fox was made an MBE for services to Ajex and charitable work in his local community of Newcastle.

Mr Fox, 81, has worked with Ajex for 12 years, holding the post of national chairman for three.

He said: “Obviously I’m very thrilled for myself but more importantly the recognition of the Jewish community organisation that I have worked for. I think it is good for the Jewish community that supporters are rewarded in this way.

“I was surprised to receive the honour. It is nice to know what you do is appreciated. It is always a very pleasant surprise when something like this takes place.”

Mr Fox is the first member of Ajex to be honoured specifically for services to the organisation. He has also volunteered for more than 20 years in the Newcastle Jewish community, serving in several positions on the UHC Newcastle-Upon-Tyne synagogue management board.

He lives with his wife Estelle in Newcastle and has one son and three grandchildren.

Philanthropist Anita Zabludowicz said she was “delighted and surprised” to be made an OBE for her services to the arts, after founding and running the Zabludowicz Collection with her husband Poju.

The ever-growing art exhibition, which the couple started in the 1990s, features thousands of pieces and is displayed in the UK, United States and Finland, where Mr Zabludowicz was born.

Mrs Zabludowicz, who also gives money to various cultural institutions including The Tate galleries and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, said the honour “inspires me to continue working for arts and culture in the UK”.

John Joseph, chairman of Jewish Blind and Disabled, was appointed an MBE for services to disadvantaged young people and to people with disabilities in the Jewish community. Mr Joseph described himself as “particularly honoured.”

Chief executive of Jewish Blind & Disabled Hazel Kaye said: "This is such a well-deserved honour. Under John’s chairmanship Jewish Blind & Disabled has gone from strength to strength so that we are able now to transform the lives of so many more people with physical disabilities or impaired vision, and John genuinely cares about each and every one of them."

Alan Gemmell, the director of the British Council in Israel, was made an OBE for services to cultural relations in the arts and science

Mr Gemmell, 37, said: “I’m tremendously honoured and privileged.

“It’s been a privilege to work in Israel for the past three years, working with the best Israeli artist and scientists.

We’ve had two priorities – to develop the strongest bi-lateral relationship, and to develop people-to-people connections in the fields. I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done."

Dr Michael Jacobs, the clinical lead in infectious diseases at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, was knighted for his contribution in tackling the ebola epidemic.

Dr Jacobs treated Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey who contracted the disease while working in Africa.

David Manuel Shalit was made an MBE for services to the City of London Corporation and voluntary service to older people in London.

The student ombudsman for higher education in England and Wales Rob Behrens has been appointed CBE for services to higher education.

The Radlett Reform Synagogue member has been held the post since 2008 and has led the development of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) in reviewing more than 15,000 student complaints.

Mr Behrens said: “The development of the OIA as the independent student ombudsman service for higher education has been an important feature of higher education in the last decade. I am delighted that my contribution to this collective endeavour has been recognised, and see it as a positive reflection on the work of the organisation.”

Chairman of Technion UK Daniel Peltz was appointed an OBE for philanthropic and charitable services.

Ann Summers chief executive Jacqueline Gold has been made a CBE after a 35-year career in which she proudly created, in her words, a business “run by women, for women”.

The entrepreneur, whose father David is Jewish and whose firm specialising in lingerie employs 10,000 people, said she was “absolutely delighted” to be honoured for services to entrepreneurship, women in business and social enterprise.

Jeff Brownhut, founder and past president of the National Outdoor Events Association, was appointed an MBE for services to the leisure and tourism industry in Northern Ireland (writes John Fisher).

He said he was "knocked out" when he heard the news of the award.

He has been staging events in Northern Ireland and also in the Irish Republic since 1976.

He has been organiser and display director of air shows at Derry airport and then Portrush for the past 20 years.

“It is one of the most spectacular and moving sights imaginable,” he said.

As well as his MBE, Mr Brownhut received a Lifetime Achievement Award last month from the National Outdoors Event Association on its 35th anniversary.

Hedy-Joy Babani was made an MBE for charity work for disadvantaged children.

She said: “I am somewhat amazed and thrilled that I’ve been selected for this special honour. I cannot think of my life without fundraising and I consider myself as a professional volunteer.”

Henry Donn was also made an MBE, for services to the community in Manchester.

The art dealer turned magistrate - who was a good friend of the artist L.S. Lowry - has served his community for more than six decades, founding Whitefield Abbeyfield Home for the Elderly and sitting on the boards of numerous hospitals.

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