Holocaust survivor to be presented with award

First published in News Harrow Times: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Reporter

A Holocaust survivor, who became an Olympic weightlifting champion just over a decade after being liberated from Nazi concentration camps, will be honoured at an awards ceremony next weekend.

Ben Helfgott, who lives in Amery Road, Harrow, will be presented with a lifetime achievement award at the Jewish Living Expo at Wembley Stadium, on March 18.

Mr Helfgott lost his mother and youngest sister during the Holocaust, while he was incarcerated in the Buchenwald, Schlieben and Theresienstadt concentration camps before being liberated by Russian troops in 1945.

But just three years later, he began weightlifting and went on to represent Britain in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games, before winning a bronze medal at the 1958 Commonwealth Games.

He is believed to be the only Holocaust survivor to have competed at two Olympic Games.

Away from sport, Ben is chairman of the 45 Aid Society, a charitable organisation formed by a group of survivors who came to the UK after the war. He also serves as President of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and as a trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

Polish born Mr Helfgott, 82, said he was “astonished” to win the award.

He said: “It came as a very big surprise and I was very astonished really, but it’s a nice feeling I suppose. I am quite excited about the event because my wife and children will be there to cheer me on. It’s going to be such an honour going there to collect the award.

“I have been through a lot but I never expected to gain fame from it.”

Mr Helfgott, who has been married to his wife, Azra, for 41 years, has now devoted his life to educating people about the horrors of the Holocaust.

He said: “I am the president of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, and devote my time to education people about the cruel things that happened during the Holocaust.

“No child should have to go through what I went through. The memories are always imprinted in my mind wherever I go – they are a part of me now. I have lived a full life in many directions, but this is something I will never forget. It haunts me every day.”

Mr Helfgott, who says his nine grandchildren are the “light of his life” will be presented with the award at Wembley Stadium by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.

The presentation will be accompanied by video tributes from Tony Blair, David Miliband and Claudia Winkelman at the event, which has been organised by the Jewish News.

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