Tributes paid to 'heroic' Holocaust survivor Solly Irving, dead at 87

It was estimated that he had spoken to tens of thousands of children over two decades about his experiences in the Shoah


UK Holocaust educational organisations have paid tribute to Holocaust survivor Solly Irving, who has died at the age of 87.

Born in Poland in 1930, Mr Irving lost his parents and four sisters during the Shoah, and survived both labour camps and concentration camps such as Buchenwald.

After the war, Mr Irving came to the UK with hundreds of other child survivors in a group subsequently known as “the boys”. In his later years he regularly gave talks about his wartime experiences, particularly to schools in Plymouth, which he visited every year. It was estimated that he had spoken to tens of thousands of children over two decades.

The Plymouth Centre for Faiths and Cultural Diversity tweeted that it was “deeply saddened by the passing of our good friend Solly Irving.

“His annual visits will be greatly missed, but his legacy lives on.”

The Holocaust Educational Trust similarly said it was “deeply saddened” to hear of Mr Irving’s passing. The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust said that Mr Irving had “worked hard to share his testimony and will be missed by many”.

Yad Vashem UK tweeted that it was “mourning the loss of a heroic survivor of the Shoah”, while London’s Jewish Museum paid tribute to Mr Irving’s “determination, sensitivity and bravery will not be forgotten”.

Paul Anticoni, World Jewish Relief’s Chief Executive, said: “I knew Solly well and met him on a number of occasions to hear his story. He was more than just a brave and remarkable Holocaust survivor – he was an inspirer of life and its important lessons and he dedicated himself to helping kids and adults understand them.

Students at schools where he had given talks also mourned his loss. Year 12 student Alfie Carlisle tweeted: “sad news… that Holocaust Survivor, Solly Irving has passed away. Had the pleasure of hearing him speak at @DHSBoys [Devonport High School for boys] in 2013.”

Another, Mandie Miller, wrote on Facebook that “I had the pleasure of meeting Solly at Estover. His experiences touched everyone who met him.

“I was humbled and touched by his story and I hope his teachings and story go on with future generations as he would have wanted. Condolences to Solly’s family and RIP for a wonderful man.”

One member of Mr Irving’s extended family wrote a tribute on social media: “We have been privileged to have known him for decades and to be considered as part of his family. He was small in stature, but a giant amongst men. He witnessed suffering in his life way beyond what we cannot even imagine; yet he never gave up and taught us that good can triumph over evil. That the light of happiness can emerge through darkness.

“Zaydie, we already miss you terribly. Seder night won't be the same without you smiling at the Yiddish Mah Nishtana. And correcting the grammar! Family simchot will be lacking your presence, your kindness and your joy. But you achieved in your life what most of us can only dream about: you shone your torch of hope and love of Hashem's world where it would have been easier to give up. You won!”

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