The Holocaust Educational Trust is deeply saddened to learn of the loss of our dear friend, mentor and honorary patron Holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott MBE 1929-2023.

Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:

‘Sir Ben Helfgott was a giant amongst men.

Ben endured the unimaginable during the Holocaust, experiencing appalling conditions in the Piotrkow Ghetto and surviving Buchenwald, Schlieben and Terezin. He witnessed horrific violence and lost almost his entire family. After liberation he came to the UK as one of The Boys – 732 child survivors of the Holocaust. Although they had nothing, these survivors made relationships that lasted for the rest of their lives.

In 1963 he established the 45 Aid Society – a group designed to support survivors, and later to support other worthy causes. Ben always worked to ensure that survivors were looked after – he was a true leader of the survivor community. Just 11 years after his liberation from the Nazi concentration camps, Ben Captained the British Weightlifting Team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He went on to represent Britian in the 1960 Rome Olympics, the 1958 Commonwealth Games, where he won Bronze, and three Maccabiah Games where he won Gold each time. He was dedicated, committed, and refused to let anything stand in his way.

Despite everything that he went through, Ben had the foresight to understand that education was crucial. He led the way in ensuring that young people in the UK will always know what happened during the Holocaust. He was so determined, he inspired everyone he met and encouraged other survivors to share their testimonies. He served on Boards of Holocaust organisations, and represented the UK in international bodies. He shared his time and his expertise generously and unwaveringly. His work will ensure that the Holocaust will always have a permanent place in our nation’s memory. He worked towards improving Polish-Jewish relations, he campaigned for restitution of stolen belongings and highlighted the need for memorials to the Holocaust.

A devoted husband to Arza, an unwavering support for his sister and fellow survivor Mala, Ben was also father to three sons, and a much loved grandfather. He knew better than anyone the importance of family.

Ben was indomitable. One of a kind. He was my hero and it is difficult to describe the void he will leave. He will be hugely missed.

May his memory be a blessing.’