Sunday, April 01, 2007

Ben Helfgott

The guest on today's Desert Island Discs was the remarkable Ben Helfgott. A Jew, he was the only member of his family to escape Nazi-occupied Poland. His mother and sister were shot in the ghetto. He lost his father when he was deported to the concentration camp. When he was liberated from Theresienstadt he was a 15-year old skeleton.

Helfgott was taken along with seven hundred other Jewish orphans to start a new life in England. He grabbed this life with both hands, and went on to become a successful businessman and the British weightlifting champion - representing his adopted country at the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games. He now organises Holocaust Memorial Day.

He says he has never hated the Germans, but that, far from fading, the trauma of his memories becomes more intense as he gets older. No matter how many times one hears the stories of the Nazi atrocities against their fellow humans, the listener still goes through the same emotional wringer: rage, disgust, guilt, incomprehension, sadness; and finally awe at people like Helfgott.

1 comment:

monix said...

What an amazing man. He has no bitterness or anger, just a great determination to ensure such things cannot happen again. I found the programme very moving and humbling.