The Holocaust Educational Trust is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our friend Solly Irving.

Solly was born on 11 August 1930 in Ryki, Poland, meaning that he was just nine years old when Germany invaded his country in 1939. When deportations from Ryki to Sobibór extermination camp began in May 1942, Solly's father Yisroel Yitzhak arranged for him and his sister Leah to escape. Solly's other sisters Rivka, Hindel and Hendel, together with their mother Chana Necha and Yisroel Yitzhak himself, were all deported. Following their escape, Solly and Leah found temporary refuge on local farms and then with a cousin in the nearby town of Dęblin. However, when they were forced to flee again after the Nazis began the liquidation of Dęblin’s Jewish community, Leah was captured by a Polish farmer; Solly never saw her again, leaving him as the sole survivor from his immediate family.

Solly spent the next few months hiding in forests, finding food and shelter where he could and constantly fearing discovery, before deciding that he would have a better chance of survival by entering a labour camp for Jews in Dęblin. He spent more than a year in this camp until the advance of the Red Army prompted the transfer of the inmates to another labour camp, in the city of Częstochowa, which Solly was able to survive by gaining a job looking after a guard's rabbits, giving him access to more food. In the last months of the war he and other inmates were transported first, in freezing conditons, to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany in January 1945 and then, as US troops closed on Buchenwald in April 1945, to Terezín (Theresienstadt) in Czechoslovakia; it was here that Solly was finally liberated, by the Red Army, in May 1945.

Solly briefly went back to Poland after liberation but, after experiencing antisemitic violence, he returned to Terezín to join a group of 732 teenage and child survivors (nicknamed ‘The Boys’) who were brought to Britain from the summer of 1945 onwards. Solly eventually settled in London, where he raised a family and established a business. He spoke regularly about his experiences, developing a particularly strong bond with schools in Plymouth which he visited every year – Solly estimated that he had spoken to more than 20,000 young people in the city, a testament to his dedication to ensuring that the victims and survivors of the Holocaust are not forgotten.