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.”
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”.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.