Last UK-based partisan dies aged 87.

Hero who escaped Nazi labour camp in September 1943 to join Bielski partisans has passed away in the UK


The last UK-based survivor of a partisan group which saved Jews from the Nazis has died, aged 87.

Jack Kagan, the last known member of the Jewish Bielski partisans, was born in Novogrodek, now part of Belarus, in 1929.

But aged only 10 he was placed in a labour camp along with his family after the Nazis seized control.

When his mother, sister, aunt and uncle were taken out of the camp and killed and his father transferred elsewhere never to be seen again, Mr Kagan first planned his escape from the nightmare of the camp in May 1943.

During the night of 26 September the entire camp of 250 Jews escaped through a narrow 200 yard long tunnel. Seventy were killed but Jack made it through and eventually joined the Jewish Bielski partisans.

With over 1,200 men, women and children, the Bielski partisans lived and survived in the Naliboki forest, creating  synagogues, bakeries, a hospital and even an airstrip.

In 1955, he married Barbara Steinfeld and together they built a Jewish home with their three children.

In the 1990’s Mr Kagan returned to Novogrudok. He established monuments to the Jews of the town, many of whom were members of his family. He also established the museum to commemorate the heroism of Jewish partisans

Mr Kagan also became a member of the Holocaust Commission that would decide the future of Holocaust education in the UK. He was also awarded the Medal of Heroism by the Belarusian government. 

Karen Pollock, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “As the only surviving member of Bielski partisans in the UK, Jack was an incredible man who inspired generations. We’ve lost a dear friend and he will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with his family.”

The UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation said on Twitter that it was “deeply sad that Jack Kagan has passed away. He led an extraordinary life & made an invaluable contribution on the PM’s Holocaust Commission”.

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