16th June 2023
KAREN POLLOCK OPINION
Sir Ben was a giant
Most Jews believe that everything God does is for good.
From a human perspective, some actions might seem evil,
but they trust that whatever happens on Earth is ultimately
according to God's plan, which is good.
Despite all he endured, Ben taught us all about resilience,
tolerance and the crucial importance of educating future
Sir Ben Helfgott was a giant among men.
A Holocaust survivor, Olympic champion, campaigner, and visionary.
Ben endured the unimaginable, experiencing appalling conditions in the
Piotrkow Ghetto and surviving Buchenwald, Schlieben and Terezin.
He witnessed and survived the depravity of the Holocaust 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.
A remarkable feat. 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 and inspired everyone he met -
he also encouraged other survivors to share their testimonies.
He worked towards improving Polish-Jewish relations,
he campaigned for restitution of stolen belongings and
highlighted the need for memorials to the Holocaust.
He never gave up.
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.
Sir Mick Davis reflects on his friendship with Sir Ben Helfgott,
who he first met in 2014 when chairing the
Prime Minister's Holocaust Commission.
Sir Ben Helfgott was, as one tribute put it,
"small in stature but a giant of a man".
I first met Ben in 2014 and he made an immediate impression,
a softly spoken gentle man who exuded strength of both body and soul.
A champion weightlifter, Ben did so much of the heavy lifting
to ensure that the stories of survivors are never forgotten and
the lessons of the Holocaust (or Shoah) passed on for
In the years that passed I was privileged to be able to call him
not only an inspiration but a friend.
He was courageous, resolute and focused but never bitter.
He took on enormous responsibility on the part of his fellow survivors
that he made seem effortless but, given the trauma of his own experience,
must have been anything but.
He had and shared with others total clarity regarding both
the universal lessons of the Holocaust on the one hand
and its uniqueness on the other.
He was determined that the nature of the Holocaust must never be
watered down by equating other atrocities, however awful,
with its particular and unique horror.
While all genocides share factors that enable the inhumanity
and destruction to take place, none mirror the industrial scale
with which a people were eliminated simply for existing.
The Jewish News Ltd