UK Holocaust Commission – Our response

On 30 May 2014, the 45 Aid Society Holocaust Survivors and 2nd & 3rd Generation members submitted a formal letter to the UK Government’s Holocaust Commission in response to the request for input on the future approach to Holocaust teaching and Commemoration in the UK.  The response we submitted is provided in full below



Response from 45 Aid Society Holocaust Survivors and Second & Third Generation – May, 2014


Of the very few Jews that survived the death camps, slave camps and death marches of Hitler’s Reich, sixty nine years ago, 732 of those survivors, most of them boys, about eighty of them girls, made the journey to Britain.  They travelled under the auspices of the Central British Fund, a Jewish organisation that had been active in helping refugees since the rise of Hitler in1933.

What this particular group of orphan refugees had in common, apart from their wartime experiences, was the journey they made together.  In the months and years that followed other Holocaust survivors joined them from across Europe, all needing a new start to life.

In 1963, the ‘Boys’ set up their own ‘45 Aid Society – Holocaust Survivors’ – a charitable organisation, named after the year they first came to Britain. Their mission has been to remember those who were lost; to help their members who needed help; to teach the lessons of the Holocaust; to spread the message of tolerance; and to help others more widely.

The 45 Aid Society has remained proudly independent, operating solely as a voluntary organisation without professional administration

As second and third generation we have joined with our parents and grandparents to continue their mission today and in to the future.


We have respect for, and gratitude to, the Prime Minister and HM Government for taking Holocaust teaching and commemoration seriously, and for establishing this Commission.   We are proud citizens – proud of Britain’s long history as a liberal, democratic nation, that courageously fought the Nazis and champions tolerance and the rule of law – and proud Jews, following in our traditions, close to our community and integrated in society.

We fully endorse the importance of the Prime Minister’s goal for the Commission:   “to make sure we learn the lessons of the dreadful events that happened” and to ensure that  “in 50 years’ time, in 2064, when a young British Christian child or a young British Muslim child or a young British Jewish child wants to learn about the Holocaust, and we as a country want them to learn about the Holocaust … it is as vibrant and strong a memory as it is today, with all of you ‘Survivors’ standing here in this room”.

We are familiar with much of the material the experts will submit to the Commission and therefore will not it repeat in this submission, offering, instead, a number of principles we hold dear that we would ask the Commission to consider:

Suggested Principles forConsideration:

  1. Please don’t confuse the ‘universal’ and the ‘particular’.  The Holocaust was a unique historical event in a particular place and time. It has universal and timeless lessons for humanity.  Historical and other comparisons made to illustrate universal lessons – or still less, to score political points – denigrate the memory of the victims, as well as undermine the message.
  2. Take the long view.  The Commission might study the historiography of the Holocaust before finalising its conclusions.  The way the history of the Holocaust has been studied and taught, and the attitudes toward it, have evolved rapidly over just 70 years, and inevitably will continue to do so.  Accuracy and integrity must take priority over empathy and engagement: because only truth can last.
  3. Personal stories can bridge the gap between history and statistics – and engagement and understanding. Testimonies of the victims of Nazi persecution can and should be brought to life.  Specifically we, as Holocaust survivors and second and third generation, can play a role in contributing to understanding. Explaining:“this happened to me/to my mother/to my grandfather” can be powerful and persuasive.
  4.  Teaching teachers and society’s role models is a priority. The Holocaust and its meaning is not a superficial subject. Teachers should benefit from the continual preparation and depth of understanding required to teach and answer questions from a position of knowledge and confidence.
  5.  Great Britain played a vital role in defeating Nazism, and, led by its Jewish community, welcomed Jewish refugees before the war, and survivors after it.  Without propaganda or bombast, Britain’s role and values should be positively recognised.
  6.  Grass roots initiatives are important as well as centralised ones. A balanced spread of Holocaust education, commemorative events, memorials and museums, should continue to develop. Top down AND bottom up.  Just one example, close to our particular hearts, is the wonderful exhibition that has captured local imagination in the Windermere Public Library. Originated and staffed by local volunteers, it tells the story of 300 of the “the Boys” who came to the “paradise” that was the Lake District after their liberation in 1945  (
  7.  There is already a lot going on – increased transparency and communication, as well as co-operation. An independent, comprehensive, dedicated and well resourced website, mapping and helping access all resources and activities should come up first for online search
  8.  Mind our Language. We should take care not to forget that the victims of Nazi persecution that suffered the greatest loss were those who did not survive.  In recent times the term “Survivor” has evolved from applying to those who who were caught up in Nazi-occupied Europe after September 1st 1939, to a looser definition, for example including refugees who left before the beginning of the war and, sometimes, modern Jewish communities in this generation who assert “we are all survivors too”.

As Holocaust survivors who endured the death camps, slave camps and death marches of Hitler’s Reich, we respectfully ask that the term ‘survivor’ be used carefully and appropriately.  This is not because we believe that the term should imply ‘automatic status’ or ‘the pinnacle in a hierarchal classification of suffering’.  The losses and suffering of each victim of Nazi persecution is individual and not for comparison. Each testimony is valid and equally valued.   We do, however, believe that for our great grandchildren to remember the victims and learn the lessons in 2064, and 2164, and 2264, historical accuracy and careful use of language must prevail.

For the record, as children and grandchildren of survivors, the second and third generation, we categorically do not regard ourselves as survivors and we reject absolutely the notion that we are victims.

Maurice Helfgott

On behalf of the 45 Aid Society Holocaust Survivors/Second & Third Generation

London, May 2014” ”

2014 Annual Reunion

The 2014 Annual Reunion was held on Sunday 4th May at the Holiday Inn, Carburton Street, London

It was a hugely successful evening.’ ‘

“Stitch In Time” – Jewish News Features Memory Quilt Project

in December 2014 the London Jewish News featured the 45 Aid Society and Second Generation and the Memory Quilt project

SPECIAL REPORT: Stitches in time – ‘Memory quilt’ marks 70 years since Shoah liberation

December 26, 2014

The families of Shoah survivors are creating a ‘memory quilt’ to mark next year’s 70th anniversary of liberation.

Of the 1.5 million children who suffered the horrors of the Holocaust, only a tiny number survived.

Of that tiny number, Britain took in only a fraction after the war.

Mainly based up in the Lake District, this group of 732 children, who became known as “The Boys”, were resettled from orphanages in Eastern Europe.

About 80 of them were girls, and they formed a tight-knit group of friends, bonded by a terrible shared experience almost beyond imagination.

They formed the ‘45 Aid Society to provide support for each other and to campaign for other charitable causes.

Their harrowing story – of ghettos, concentration camps, death marches and hiding – has since been retold, by historian Sir Martin Gilbert, among others, in his book The Boys.

Now, to mark next year’s 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, the survivors’ descendants have launched an ambitious project to create a memory quilt, for every one of the 732 children, as an act of commemoration.

“Our parents have deputed to us the responsibility of guarding their testimony, bearing vicarious witness to their life stories and of remembering the lives that were destroyed,” said the Second Generation Group in a statement.

“To keep alive the memories of events from the Holocaust, people must be reminded of the facts.”

square 1 harry fox


Harry Fox” created by his wife, Annie. “My beloved husband never changed his name in any official sense, and still used Chaim Fuks. The words L’Chaim, ‘To life’ are there because he never ceased to choose life. No matter what setbacks he encountered, he never gave up.”


he team, including a newly-formed group of volunteers, are reaching out to the survivors and their descendants around the world, gathering together contributions and planning the display of the finished piece.

The memory quilt group has held workshops at Jewish Care’s Holocaust Survivors’ Centre in Hendon, where they meet to discuss ideas and the creative process with members of the second and third generation, who are making squares for their parents and grandparents.. “This is an important project to commemorate the lives of the survivors,” said Second Generation member Julia Burton.

“We are delighted to have recruited a team of volunteers, though Jewish Care, who have a passion for needlework and are able to help with some of the quilt squares.”

Derek Taylor,

‘Esther and Stan’, made by their daughter, Lorna Brunstein. “My square lists the stopping points of each of their journeys and features a photo of the Grand Palais Yiddish Theatre, a place of great significance to both of them, as it was where they first met”.

‘Abraham (ALF) Kirszberg’, made by his daughter, Elaine Blatt. The words and accompanying photos tell a lovely story.

‘Abraham (ALF) Kirszberg’, made by his daughter, Elaine Blatt. The words and accompanying photos tell a lovely story.

Since the project launch and a series of creative workshops, untold stories have been coming in from survivors and their families.

Organisers say these are “stories of miraculous survival through one of the darkest periods of human history, stories of bravery in overcoming hardships to rebuild lives and create strong families anew”.

square 7 Jan Goldberger

Left: Jan Goldberger made by his daughter, Cilla. Family members are represented as leaves on a tree, “illustrating how the family has grown and blossomed with our parents at the centre.” Right: Made by Holocaust survivor Hanka Ziegler Smith and her daughter, Thea Giardina. Center: Charles Shane made by his wife, Anita, who he married in 1950.

The survivors’ children hope that, by recounting their parents’ testimonies, lessons will be learned to benefit future generations.

“The memory quilt is going to be a powerful legacy for generations to come,” adds Julia.

The whole family met to develop the concept for a square to celebrate  the life of Josef Perl and Mandy, his daughter- in-law, then brought the concept of ‘a survivor’s story’ to life in words  and symbols.

The whole family met to develop the concept for a square to celebrate
the life of Josef Perl and Mandy, his daughter-
in-law, then brought the concept of ‘a survivor’s story’ to life in words
and symbols.


For details, or to help with the quilt creation, email second or visit


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Survivors’ Memory Quilt in London News

In January 2015 the Camden New Journal in London highlighted the work of the Second Generation of the 45 Aid Society and the Memory Quilt project. The article is reproduced below with a link to the original online version

FORUM: The memory quilt keeping Holocaust survivors’ stories alive

Published: 29 January, 2015

Hannah Gelbart’s mother and aunt, Rosalind Gelbart (left) and Julia Burton

Hannah Gelbart’s mother and aunt, Rosalind Gelbart (left) and Julia Burton, with the memory quilt

AS the world marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps, a group of Holocaust survivors and their families are weaving their memories into a gigantic memory quilt.

The quilt is inspired by textile artist Sheree Charalampous and each survivor’s family is contributing a fabric square to the patchwork commemoration.

The survivors, many of whom are now in their 80s, along with their children and grandchildren, have attended workshops where they turn their stories and their memories into cloth quilt squares. The designs are beautiful: abstract paintings, charcoal drawings, photos stitched into the fabric and family trees made of felt, to name but a few. The squares are a celebration of survival in the face of adversity and of lives rebuilt in the UK.

Yet behind each of them linger memories of one of the most horrific massacres of mankind.

One of the survivors was my grandfather, David Herman, who lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb. He died in 2008, but was determined to leave his testimony. He wanted the world to have no doubt about what he had been through.

David was 12 when the war started. A year later, his hometown of Munkacs came under the rule of Nazi Germany. David and his family moved to the Jewish ghetto, sharing their apartment with 24 other people. Three years later, on a chilly spring day, an SS officer appeared at their door, giving them minutes to pack their bags before herding them to the station. Their destination: Auschwitz.

They didn’t know that yet. Instead, they believed what they were told, that they were headed east, to be resettled on new land. On arrival at the infamous death camp, they were met by SS officers who beat them brutally with sticks. David was separated from his family as his mother was led to one side. He never saw her again.

Hannah Gelbart, a West Hampstead freelance journalist and Cambridge modern languages graduate, and her grandfather David Herman

My grandfather lied about his age so many times during his lifetime that, when he died seven years ago, not even he could remember how old he was. It was one of those lies that saved his life.

In Auschwitz, women, the young, the elderly and the infirm were sent straight to the gas chambers. At the age of 16  David would have been too young to work. By saying he was 18, and that he had a trade, he was judged useful enough to live.

From Auschwitz, David was transferred to five more concentration camps. In Rhemsdorf, where he was brutally exploited as slave labour to produce petroleum for the German war effort, he was miraculously reunited with his younger brother, Abe, who had also survived Auschwitz. They managed to keep each other alive during their imprisonment, and on the bitter and painfully long death march to Theresienstadt. Here they were eventually liberated by the Russians in 1945. At the time David was suffering from typhus and weighed four-and-a-half stone.

After the war the British government agreed to receive up to 1,000 orphaned Jewish child survivors. But of the 1.5million children who suffered at the hands of the Nazis only 732 could be found to move to the UK as part of this initiative.

Another lie about his age was enough to reserve David’s place for a new future in England. All of the child survivors that came to the UK carried experiences of several death camps and some had survived the infamous death marches. They travelled from Prague and Munich to residential hostels in Britain to begin new lives.

Being mostly male, they came to be known as “The Boys”, even though about 80 of them were girls. Bonded by terrible shared experiences, and having lost their families in the Holocaust, they formed a tight-knit group.

Their stories have been told by historian Sir Martin Gilbert in his 1996 book The Boys.

Despite the hands they were dealt, The Boys thrived in the UK. Many went on to have large families and build successful businesses. My grandfather made fur coats and it was as a fashion designer that he met my grandmother, Olive, who modelled his designs.

The Boys were determined to support each other and give back to the community that received them after the war. They created their own charitable organisation called the ’45 Aid Society, raising money for refugee causes and Holocaust education.

Every year they hold an annual reunion in London to celebrate their survival and their friendship. It is here that the memory quilt will be unveiled in May, before starting its journey to many museums around the country and the world.

My grandfather’s story is one of many, but nowadays the number of survivors who can tell those stories first-hand is dwindling.

The memory quilt will keep those stories alive and gives us, the children and grandchildren of The Boys, another great story to tell.” ”

UK Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission Report

Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission Report

The Report from the UK Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission is now available.

Entitled: “Britain’s Promise to Remember.The Prime Minister’s Holocaust Commission Report” it is available online. To read / download the Report, see link below

David Cameron’s speech on UK National Holocaust Commemoration day

To read UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on the occasion of the UK National Holocaust Commemoration event on 27 January 2015, click on the link below

” ”

Icek Alterman


Icek was born in Ozarow, Poland, in 1928, the middle of three children. When he was a small boy, the family moved to his fathers’ home town of Ostrowiec, which was 25km away.

When war broke out, he lived with his family in the Ostrowiec ghetto. At a round up, he and his father were sent to work at the brickworks in Ostrowiec, his mother, sister and brother were sent to Treblinka. A short time after Icek was transported to Blizin, a sub camp of Majdanek. From Blizin he was transported to Auschwitz/Birkenau in July 1944, where he stayed until going on the Death March and ending up in Buchenwald. From there he was transported to Theresienstadt. He was still on the wagons when the Russian army liberated them before going on to liberate Prague. He was the only member of his immediate family to survive the war.

Icek was one of The Boys transported to Windermere in August 1945 for recuperation and rehabilitation. From there he went to Manchester, where he is still living. Icek was married to Myra for many years and they have two daughters and two grandchildren. Myra died in 1991. Icek was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful partner, Diane Stoller, and they have been together for 17 years. Myras’ sister Anita married Chaim Shane, also one of The Boys.

As a child Icek watched his uncles working at their jewellers’ benches and this inspired him to become a successful working jeweller and diamond mounter, establishing his own business in 1953. Icek plays golf regularly and ten years ago he started to learn to play the musical keyboard.

Diane Stoller

Henry Abisch


My husband, Henry Abisch, was born on 25th December 1928 in Rachov, Carpathia, Czechoslovakia. He was taken with his parents, three brothers and sister to Auschwitz Birkenau in

1943 – his parents and 2 little brothers were gassed on arrival at Birkenau. His sister was separated and went with the women to work in Auschwitz.

Henry’s older brother Moshe went to work at Furstengruber (coal mines) and Dora and then back to Auschwitz. They were on the death march in January 1945 to Bergen-Belsen. Moshe died before reaching Belsen.

Henry was liberated in Belsen by the British army in April 1945. He came to England with the ‘Boys’ in 1946 and was lodging in the Jewish Shelter in the East End. He became a typewriter mechanic and changed direction by becoming a representative in the handbag and toy trade, eventually in 1958 starting his own business in handbags with a warehouse in Camden Town.

We married in January 1956 in Upper Berkeley Street Synagogue. Henry died suddenly on 25th December 1988, the day of his 60th birthday.

The square shows Henry photographed, in the centre, at the age of 27. Top left is our wedding picture. Top right, skiing, Henry was an excellent skier. Bottom right is a photo of our beloved dogs. Bottom left, golf, Henry loved playing golf. The hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades represent the game of Bridge which Henry played for many years. The Star of David represents Israel which we both love and where my mother and her sister lived and died.

Nadia Abisch

Jack Aizenberg


Our father, grandfather and our hero, Jack Yankel Aizenberg, was born on 15th April 1928, in a small town called Staszow in Poland.

At the age of 16 years old, he was separated from his family whom he never saw again and was taken to a slave labour camp called Kielce, 50 miles away from his hometown. After a few months he was transported to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany, where he was made to work whilst being tortured with starvation, tiredness and loneliness as his family were unknown to his location. Jack’s childhood was ruined by the Nazis where he had no freedom or say in society. During the time spent at Buchenwald, orders came from the SS that workers were needed at Colditz castle, an ammunition factory. My father worked at the factory for a short time and was later moved to Theresienstadt in Czechoslavakia, where he was finally liberated in 1945.

He was brought to Windermere in the Lake District, for treatment and recuperation. He started a new life and created a successful luggage business with two other Holocaust survivors in Manchester.

The square represents my father’s family, especially his grandchildren, whom he loves most in the world and feels a very close bond with. We have chosen this picture to represent his replacement family, that were so tragically taken away from him in the horrors of the Holocaust and to emphasise the special person he is. Jack’s hard work and determination is revenge on Hitler and his annihilation of the Jewish people.

Debbie Greenstein