Tisha B’Av - An Evening of Inspiration

05-Aug-2014 - 7:00pm

We were treated to not one but two stories of inspiration - Sir Nicholas Winton & Ben Helfgott MBE

This year on Tisha B’av we were treated to not one but two stories of inspiration. The first was the film ‘Nicky’s famlly’ – the story of Sir Nicholas Winton. The second was a talk by Ben Helfgott MBE. A lightweight champion with a true uplift on his day of fasting. Ben Helfgott’s story.

Sir Nicholas Winton said:

‘NEVER GIVE UP – I just think that a lot of people say certain things can’t be done, because they’ve never really tried to do some things. That’s an excuse for not doing something. Most things, which are not blatantly absolutely impossible to do, with a lot of hard work, can be achieved. I think it’s the will that is often lacking’.

Across the generations about 90 people gathered in Bushey to see the film of the story of Nicholas Winton.

Nicholas Winton being Knighted

Nicholas Winton being Knighted

Bronze of children arriving at Liverpool St. station following Sir Nick's arrangements

Bronze of children arriving at Liverpool St. station following Sir Nick’s arrangements.

Nicholas Winton – an unlikely 29 year old saved – the lives of 669 children from Czechoslovakia. He was in the right place at the right time. These children were from families who were at risk from the Nazis. This is the story of the survivors who came to Britain as part of the 1939 kindertransport.

The film depicts the agonising reality, the fear and realisation, that to enable these Jewish children to survive they had to be sent away from their parents, families and friends, alone, thousands of miles away to a strange country where language and customs were to be so different.

The survivors found out only by accident after 50 years who their saviour was. He never spoke of it – not even to his family. In the film the survivors speak of their experiences and their love for a man they only recently got to know. He is a man who gave them the chance to have families of their own and generations to follow.

This remarkable story has been given life on screen in an extraordinary mix of drama, reality footage and memorabilia based around the testaments of survivors and their stories. It had many of the audience weeping, a beautifully made film and a true inspiration.

Ben Helfgott MBE

A lightweight champion with a true uplift on this day of fasting. Ben Helfgott’s story.

Ben Helfgott

Ben Helfgott

Ben Helfgott

Ben Helfgott

Nicky’s Story was followed by a Holocaust child survivor himself and another inspiration in so many ways. Ben was liberated from Theresienstadt at age 15 and weighed just 6 stone. He told us his story of how he and his family were put into the ghetto from his home town of Piotrkow in Poland in 1929. His parents and sisters hid outside until they were discovered and his mother and one of his sisters were shot. He and his father were sent to Treblinka where at the age of nine his life was saved by working in a glass factory. He later went to Buchenwald with his father.

Ben had gone on to another camp where he was separated from his father. He was exposed to freezing temperatures, rationed ‘soup’ and hard labour. His father was later shot as he tried to escape the ‘death march’ just prior to liberation.

After the war, the British Home Office allowed 1,000 Holocaust children into the country and Ben took the opportunity. He discovered that one of his sisters, Mala, had survived. They were reunited in 1947.

Ben loved England and went to university to catch up on many years of lost studying. He was a great sportsman and his opportunity came when by accident he came across a group of weightlifters swimming at Hampstead Heath. The trainer was impressed at the ease at which he was able to lift 140lbs without any previous training. He got into the Maccabi league, became the British lightweight champion, followed by the entry into the British National Team where he won medals at the 1956 and 1960 Olympics.

Ben was the only survivor of 45 children in his class at his school back in Poland. He talks of them at all the schools he visits as there were so few survivors of his school. He is a trustee of the Holocaust Education Trust (HET).