New Year’s Honours List: Golders Green Holocaust survivors receive awards

Lily Ebert. Picture: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust

Lily Ebert. Picture: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust - Credit: VisMedia

A Holocaust survivor who lost most of her family and her possessions in Auschwitz, except for a necklace hidden in the heel of a shoe, has been awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM).

Agnes Grunwald-Spier. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Agnes Grunwald-Spier. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Lily Ebert, 85, of Golders Green, was deported with her family from Hungary to the network of concentration camps, where her mother, brother and sister were killed in the gas chambers.

They travelled for five days to the camps in a train packed with about 80 people, who all had to share one bucket for water and one bucket for waste.

Her brother had hidden her mother’s necklace in the heel of one of her shoes, the only item Ms Ebert was allowed to keep.

Hiding the pendant in a piece of bread, it survived the camp and Ms Ebert still wears it to this day.

Now she shares the horrifying experience with young people in videos for the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, saying that she wants youngsters to understand the “importance of tolerance and love”.

Ms Ebert is among three other Holocaust survivors recognised in the 2016 New Year’s Honours List for bravely reliving the horrors of their past to educate young people about the genocide.

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Born in Budapest in 1944, Agnes Grunwald-Spier, 71, of Golders Green, narrowly avoided being sent to Auschwitz as a baby. She went on to publish two books about the history of the Holocaust.

She has now been made an OBE for services to the community and Holocaust awareness.

Ms Grunwald-Spier, a founder trustee of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “Naturally I am absolutely thrilled. Lots of people do what I have done but don’t get acknowledged.

“The award also acknowledges the importance of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the work it does.”

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the trust, said the nominations were in recognition of survivors as well as those who lost their lives in Nazi concentration camps.

She said: “These awards recognise the individual contributions that Lily and Agnes have made but they also recognise the contributions that all survivors make to the UK, and honour the memory of the millions of people who did not survive the Holocaust.”