Boris Johnson pays tribute to Ian Forsyth, one of the first solders to liberate Belsen

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Boris Johnson pays tribute to Ian Forsyth, one of the first solders to liberate Belsen

Prime Minister reflects on hearing the former soldier's 'incredible testimony' of liberating Shoah victims, saying their conversation 'shall remain with me always'

Boris Johnson virtual meeting with Holocaust Survivor Renee Salt and Liberator Ian Forsyth,  in the study of No10 Downing Street. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street
Boris Johnson virtual meeting with Holocaust Survivor Renee Salt and Liberator Ian Forsyth, in the study of No10 Downing Street. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has led tributes to one of the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, saying he’s “extremely saddened” following his death, aged 97.

Ian Forsyth dedicated his later life to educating about the horrors he witnessed, speaking at schools and with charities such as the Holocaust Educational Trust and Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

Forsyth of Hamilton in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, was a tank operator who fought his way through Germany following the D Day landings. Aged just 21, he entered the camp at which an estimated 50,000 people died, in April 1945, with the 15th/19th King’s Royal Hussars in the The Royal Armoured Corps.

Speaking about his harrowing experience, he appeared in a video with Auschwitz and Belsen survivor Renee Salt, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Jewish News: “I’m extremely saddened to hear of the death of Ian Forsyth. I was fortunate enough to speak with Ian on Holocaust Memorial Day, where he shared his incredible testimony, one that shall remain with me always.

“He was a remarkable individual to whom we owe so much for his service to our country. My thoughts and condolences are with his friends and family.”

Watch the Prime Minister’s full meeting with Renee Salt and Ian Forsyth:

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust paid respects, saying: “Ian Forsyth was one of the first British soldiers to liberate the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. What he saw there stayed with him, and informed the rest of his life.

“Over the past decades, he made such an effort to tell the next generation about what he saw, and to reconnect with those he liberated, including meeting survivor Renee Salt BEM with the Prime Minister to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2021. He was a kind and thoughtful man who we will remember fondly. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

Ian Forsyth

He told the Prime Minister of his experience earlier in the year, as he was awarded the Points of Light Award.

“We didn’t even know the camp was there”, the Scot said. “My tank happened to be the lead tank on that particular day. But no one told us what to expect.”

As he fought back tears, he apologised to the Prime Minister while relaying his experiences, saying: “I get very emotional when I talk about this”.

He said: “I have been back quite a few times, it draws me like a magnet.”

To mark the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 2020, he told the BBC it made him think “for the first time.. just how low mankind can sink”.


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