The Holocaust Educational Trust is deeply saddened to learn of the loss of our friend Josef Perl.

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

“Josef Perl was just 10 years old when he and his family were forced from their home in Czechoslovakia into a concentration camp. He used to regularly escape to forage for food, and during one of these missions, the camp was cleared. Josef spent the next 18 months alone, trying to find his family.

Josef went on to survive a number of camps including Płaszów, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, and Buchenwald, where he was eventually liberated.

After he retired, Josef dedicated his time to ensuring that the world would never forget what happened to him, his family and the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, reliving his most painful memories to ensure that future generations would always know the truth of the past.

Josef exuded a quiet strength and kindness that always shone through, even when talking about the darkest of times.

Josef will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and we pledge to redouble our efforts to ensure that his story and legacy continues.”

Josef Perl was born on 27th April 1930 in Veliky Bochov, then part of Czechoslovakia. He was the only son in a large, Orthodox family.

In 1940 the Hungarian Army invaded, forcing the Jewish population into the town’s synagogue. From there they were marched to waiting cattle wagons which were to take them to Poland. They arrived at a makeshift camp and lived in the most appalling conditions. Josef helped his family by foraging for food. Whilst looking for food, the camp was cleared and Josef spent the next 18 months searching for his family in different ghettos and towns. He was caught and taken to a forest clearing where he witnessed Jews being shot, amongst them were his mother and sisters.

Josef endured the horrors of Płaszów slave labour camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen. He was a slave labourer at Balkenheim where he took part in an attempted uprising. For this, he was transferred to Gross-Rosen to be executed. He managed to hide, using the identity of a dead inmate, and was sent on a death march to Buchenwald. American troops liberated the camp on 11th April. Josef was 15 years old.

After his liberation, Josef attempted to return home, but was met by a neighbour who demanded that he leave or he would ‘finish Hitler’s job for him.’

Josef came to England in 1946, where he met his wife Sylvia and had 2 children. Miraculously, 20 years later, he was reunited with his father. Josef dedicated his life after the war to ensuring that what happened to him, his family, and the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis was never forgotten.