Words cannot explain how much honour means to me, says Holocaust survivor

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A 99-year-old great-grandmother who survived the Holocaust and became a founding member of the UK’s Holocaust Survivor Centre has said “words cannot explain how much this means to me” after being made an MBE.

Lily Ebert was recognised for her services to Holocaust education at Windsor Castle on Tuesday after being included in the New Year Honours list – the first overseen by Charles since his ascension to the throne.

With her while she accepted the award was her great-grandson, 19-year-old Dov Forman.

Lily Ebert is made an MBE
Lilly Ebert, from London, is made an MBE by the King at Windsor Castle (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“Not so long ago, there were people who wanted to kill me for my religion, and today I received this honour”, Ms Ebert said from the Castle, in a room which celebrates the life of the Jewish Queen Esther.

“Words cannot explain how much this means to me.

“I promised myself that if I survived, then I would tell the whole world what had happened to us in Auschwitz – that there were people killed for no other reason than their beliefs, because we were believed not to be worthy of life.”

She said that she has always tried to be a positive force in the world and encourage others to “appreciate our differences and learn from each other, and be kind to everyone.

“Something terrible like that should never, ever happen again. As long as I am alive I will teach the world to be tolerant”, she added.

Investitures at Windsor Castle
Lily Ebert, together with her great-grandson, Dov Forman, have accumulated more than two million TikTok followers (Andrew Matthews/PA Wire)

“I find (educating people through TikTok) very important because the youngsters really want to learn and they should learn,” she said.

“I don’t speak only what I learn – I went through it.”

Ms Ebert was freed from Auschwitz at the age of 20, 78 years ago, and spent a year in Switzerland before moving in 1946 to Israel, then under British rule in Palestine.

She migrated to the UK in 1967 with her husband, Samuel, and began a life of educating the world about the horrors of the Holocaust.

Ms Ebert is now based in north London, and is a mother of three, a grandmother of 10, and became a great-grandmother for the 36th time in 2022.

The King wrote a foreword for her book, Lily’s Promise, as Ms Ebert spoke about her appreciation for the monarch whom she has met on a series of occasions, including at one of his Christmas parties.

Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust exhibition
Ms Ebert said the King is ‘a very special human being’ (Arthur Edwards/The Sun)

“It must be a very difficult job and he does it with such a love and understanding, that I thank him very much.

“I never thought that I would have the opportunity to thank him personally.”

She added that news of her MBE arrived via a letter and that the recognition is “very special”.

“People are still here in this world and (are showing) their respect – what we (should) try to have for the whole community.”

Jade Jones
Jade Jones at Windsor Castle (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“It is so humbling to be here today, together with four generations of my great-grandmother’s family as she accepted her MBE.

“It was very moving to see the tears rolling down her face as she told the King that she never expected to survive the Holocaust, let alone receive an honour from the King of England.”

He added that the following they have gained on TikTok is partly to “take a torch and pass it to others”.

Margherita Taylor
Margherita Taylor was made an MBE (Andrew Matthews/PA)

“And so every single person that hears our story on TiKTok… they learn the lessons of the past.

“So I’m incredibly honoured and humbled to have helped my great-grandmother go viral and provided her with a platform and every single day we get thousands of comments from across the world, from countries even where they are banned from learning and teaching about the Holocaust.”

Mr Forman spoke about his time visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site for the first time on January 19.

Jade Jones
Jade Jones, from Flint, is made an OBE by the King (Jonathan Brady/PA)

“We must not hesitate to place responsibility upon the perpetrators who had anything to do with enabling the terrors that befell those like my great grandmother… Having said that, this is not the biggest risk that faces us today.

“Our biggest concern regards the third category of ordinary people within the scope of those involved in the Holocaust: the bystanders.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become bystanders – my work with my great-grandmother, and this trip (Auschwitz) have ingrained in me that it is up to us, those of the more recent generations, my generation, to make sure that we do not stand idly by as long as there is hatred in this world.”

Others who received honours at Windsor Castle on Tuesday include Jade Jones, who won gold in taekwondo for Team GB at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and Professor David Olusoga, known for his work to highlight black British history – both of whom were made OBEs.

TV and radio presenter Margherita Taylor was made an MBE.

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