Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper dies on his 93rd birthday

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Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper dies on his 93rd birthday

Association of Jewish Refugees among many community organisations paying tribute to an "indefatigable speaker" and dedicated advocate for Holocaust education.

Credit: Adam Soller
Credit: Adam Soller

Tributes have flooded in from across and beyond the Jewish community after news that the well-loved Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper, who lived through Auschwitz-Birkenau and Stutthof, had died on his 93rd birthday.

Ten years after being born in Łódź in Poland in 1930, Zigi was forced into the Lodz Ghetto, where he was put to work in a metal factory. In 1944, when the Ghetto was liquidated, he was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau as a young teen.

After a few weeks, he was moved to Stutthof concentration camp before being sent on a death march in 1945. He was liberated by British troops on 3 May 1945 and came to the UK in 1947, where he met his wife, Jeannette. They had two daughters and later saw his family grow further, of which he was hugely proud.

King Charles studies a portrait of Holocaust survivor Zigi Shipper (left) as he speaks with him at exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

With energy, he used his experience to inform the next generation. “In recent years, Zigi became an indefatigable speaker, sharing his personal story in schools across the country,” said the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR).

This he did through the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) outreach programme as well as at numerous other community events, including AJR’s 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration.

The Holocaust Education Trust is collecting memories of Zigi. Share yours by emailing rememberingZigi@het.org.uk

AJR added that “his amazing story of resilience and hope, combined with his charm, humour and kindness, won the hearts of thousands of young people who invariably commented that they would carry forward his story and his simple, enduring message: don’t hate.”

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT), said Zigi “lit up a room with his charm and personality… I never had a conversation with him without him being cheeky, without his eyes twinkling at me or without his broad smile lighting his face”.

Holocaust survivors Manfred Goldberg and Zigi Shipper (right) attend an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, of ‘Seven Portraits: Surviving the Holocaust’, which were commissioned by the Prince of Wales to pay tribute to Holocaust survivors. Picture date: Monday January 24, 2022.

She recalled a familiar Zigi refrain, when he would say: “There is nothing we can do about the past, but we can do a lot about the present and the future.”

She added that he was “a man who witnessed so much darkness during the Holocaust and yet spread so much light,” saying: “We will miss his joyful, and compassionate presence very sorely.”

Karen Pollock, HET chief executive, said he was “the most energetic, charismatic, charming and brilliant person to have around, a man full of spirit with a devastating story to tell about his past, yet always sharing a message of hope and love”.

Zigi Shipper’s family portrait taken in stages and later pieced together by a graphic artist. Credit: Arthur Edwards

Recalling his tireless dedication, she said he was “determined to teach the next generation about the difficult lessons of the past, to make a better future”.

In 2017, he accompanied the Prince and Princess of Wales on their visit to Stutthof and left “a deep and enduring impression on them both”. Last year, King Charles commissioned a portrait of Zigi, which hung in Buckingham Palace.

“Zigi’s humanity as ever shone through, even in a portrait,” said Pollock. “I adored Zigi and will miss him. He was part of the HET family and will leave such a huge gap in all of our hearts. May his memory be a blessing.”

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