RAF veteran, 94, gives Holocaust survivors he helped save a poignant gift at emotional 45 Aid Society dinner

74 years after 'The Boys' were taken to start a new life in Britain, members of the group were reintroduced to one of the flight crew


For the Holocaust survivors of the 45 Aid Society, its annual dinner is always an emotional event.

But this year there was a surprise for “The Boys” - the child survivors of the camps, who were flown from Prague to begin new lives in Britain 74 years ago.

In an emotional scene on Monday night, one of the flight crew on the RAF Sterling bombers was reunited with some of those he flew to freedom.

Flight Sergeant Norman Shepherd, now 94, was just 20 when his squadron received orders to fly the children, many of them just a few years younger than himself and who had survived some of the most notorious Nazi death camps.

The British government had agreed to take in 1,000 but only 732 could be found. 

Sgt Shepherd gave those he met bars of chocolate, the same gift which, as a young airman, he greeted his young travellers.

Speaking to lawyer and TV star Robert "Judge" Rinder - whose grandfather was among those taken to safety by the mission - Sgt Shepherd described how he gave them the chocolate during the flight to bridge the language gap and "cheer them up".

But later in the flight he returned to where the young survivors were seated to find that, unused to flying or eating such rich food, they had vomited, leaving “sick all over the airplane”, which he then cleaned up.

Mr Rinder said at least one of the young survivors, terrified after years of cruelty from men in uniform, feared they were to be thrown out of the aircraft mid-air.

But Sgt Shepherd said: “Once they saw I wasn’t going to hurt them… they hugged me and kissed me.”

Ziggi Shipper, one of the Boys, said: “It was really an honour to meet him, because who knows what would have happened to the youngsters, who were all stateless.

“They wouldn’t have been able to come to this country without people like him.”

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, was also at the dinner and was aked by Mr Rinder why he had taken his children – “no cameras, just you and your family” – to visit one of the the Boys, Harry Spiro, to “sit and listen”.

Mr Javid replied that, after he first met Mr Spiro at a Holocaust Educational Trust dinner and heard his story, he arrived home that evening; “my wife was about to go to sleep and I woke her up and told her Harry’s story. And she also thought it was amazing – we wanted our children to hear that.

"I think it’s so important for the younger generation to hear the stories of the Holocaust and be privileged to hear them from survivors, if they can.

“I can think of few things that are more important than to teach your children.”

He also reaffirmed his commitment to the planned Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to Parliament, saying it was “absolutely going to be built” at that site, despite setbacks that have forced the architects to redraw the plans.

“The whole government is absolutely committed”, he said.

"I think it’s very very important that that’s the site which is picked… I’m very confident about this – the whole government is absolutely committed.

“It’s got to be there not just because it’s such an iconic site, but more importantly, I think it’s important for future generations of Parliamentarians to have a constant reminder of what happens when politics and society goes wrong.”

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