Ninety-year-old Mindu Hornick and 82-year-old John Paul Hajdu have been awarded MBEs for their work on Holocaust education and commemoration.
Ms Hornick, who is based in Birmingham and works with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and the Anne Frank Trust, described the recognition as “an absolute surprise”, while North London-based Mr Hajdu said his MBE is “most unexpected”.
Ninety-year-old Gertrude Silman, who is the honorary life president of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA), said receiving her MBE for Holocaust education is a “very proud moment”.
Ms Hornick, who was born in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), has been educating about the Holocaust for around two decades.
“I’m 90 now and it is always an effort to do [Holocaust Memorial Days] but with everything that is going on in the world today – with Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other unacceptable things that are happening – I think it is important to educate young people,” she said.
“In my opinion, it is very important that we don’t just mourn our losses and our tragic events, but we should also mourn others going on now in the 21st century.”
Ms Hornick added that there has been a “terrible rise of all kinds of atrocities”, which is why “it is very important to educate young people to love each other and to appreciate each other’s faith and beliefs”.
Mr Hajdu, who was born in Budapest, Hungary, works with the Holocaust Educational Trust, through which he regularly delivers talks to schoolchildren about the persecution he suffered under Nazi and Soviet regimes in the 1940s and 1950s.
While living in Nazi-occupied Hungary, his mother was transported to a concentration camp and his father was sent to a forced labour camp. Mr Hajdu was freed from a ghetto by Soviet troops an hour before it was due to blow up.
While giving talks to schoolchildren, Mr Hajdu tells them he is there to show “it is possible with all the hardship and all the fighting in your life, to survive and create a happy life in this country”.
“The award simply urges me on to try to talk to as many people as possible and be an ambassador on behalf of survivors who might not be able to talk or might not want to talk about their experiences,” he said of his MBE.
Despite experiencing a stroke on Christmas four years ago that impaired her mobility and sight, Ms Silman continues to give lectures about the Holocaust.
“When I was a child settling in England, someone told me ‘society has given you so much, and you have to repay that’. This is one of the ways I have tried to do that,” she stated.
Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said it is a “fitting time for the announcement” of the Holocaust survivors being honoured on the New Year’s Honours list, given it is “almost 75 years after the liberation of the most notorious Nazi death camp, Auschwitz”.
“Having experienced unthinkable trauma and loss at the hands of the Nazis, these remarkable individuals now dedicate so much of their time to sharing their testimony,” Ms Marks-Woldman said.
“Their efforts to share their experiences have an immeasurable impact, both honouring their loved ones who were murdered by the Nazis, and teaching about the dangers of prejudice, intolerance and hatred.”