Arek Hersh

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Arek Hersh

Arek Hersh, MBE, is a survivor of the Holocaust.

Early life and World War II[edit]

Arek Hersh (Herszlikowicz - הרשליקוביץ׳) was born in Sieradz, Poland in 1928.[1] He was the son of a bootmaker for the Polish army and a homemaker.[2] At the age of eleven, following Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland, he was taken to his first concentration camp. The camp started out with 2,500 men; eighteen months later only eleven were alive. Hersh was moved around several camps before being taken to Auschwitz. Even as a young boy at the time, Hersh deduced that those who were placed in a group with sick, young or old people were considered by the Nazis to be of no use and would be killed. Consequently, while Jews were standing in queues of fitter and weaker people before entering the camp, Hersh crossed to the fitter queue during a commotion near the rear of the line (SS officers tried to take a child from its mother), and in doing so, saved his own life.[3] As the war approached its conclusion and Germany was surrounded by the Allies, Hersh and the other Jews at Auschwitz were transported across the country. He was eventually liberated at Theresienstadt (Terezin, Czechoslovakia) on 8 May 1945 by the Soviet Army. There were 5,000 Jews in his town but only 40 of them came out alive.[4]

The night before he was liberated, Hersh and a few other survivors found an unguarded German warehouse, from which they took as much food as they wanted; they ate so much that their stomachs hurt due to the sudden intake of rich fatty foods which they had lacked for so long. For Hersh, it was his first taste of chocolate in five years. The Soviet soldiers let all of the surviving Jews do whatever they wanted with the Germans; Arek took the captain's food to show him how it felt to starve.

Hersh was included in a group of 300 Holocaust-surviving children who, following their liberation, were brought to the Lake District in England as part of a rehabilitation plan. Their journey is documented in the BBC film The Windermere Children.[5][6] They were given just seven hours of English lessons and had to learn the rest for themselves.

Hersh lost 81 members of his immediate family in the Holocaust.[7] Only one of his sisters survived.[8]

Post World War II[edit]

In 1948, Hersh volunteered to fight in the Israeli Defence Forces "to contribute towards the war of independence".

Personal life[edit]

Hersh met his wife Jean at a dance in Leeds at the age of 32. They have three children and several grandchildren.[9][10] He currently lives near Leeds, England. In 1995, as part of his first public discussion of his Holocaust experiences, Hersh published his book, A Detail of History.[11] All the proceeds go to the Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre, where he often gives presentations about his experience.[12] t

Awards and honors[edit]

Hersh was the subject of the award-winning documentary "Arek" (2005) produced by UNISON and directed by Tony Lloyd.[13]

In 2009, he was awarded an MBE for voluntary service to Holocaust education.

In 2017 he was immortalised in a sculpture by Frances Segelman for the Leeds Makor Jewish Culture Office.[14]

In 2019 Arek was one of the subjects in the BBC drama "The Windermere Children" telling the story of the child survivors of the Nazi Holocaust that has devastated Europe's Jewish population on arrival to Calgarth Estate by Lake Windermere in 1945.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arek Hersh". The Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  2. ^ "Auschwitz survivor Arek Hersh MBE: "I wanted to live. I wanted to survive."". LeftLion. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  3. ^ "Escaping death at Auschwitz – Arek Hersh tells his story". University of Huddersfield. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  4. ^ "| Arek Hersh". March of the Living UK. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  5. ^ Lewis, Tim (5 January 2020). "From Nazi camps to the Lake District: the story of the Windermere children". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  6. ^ "RS&G Remembrance 2019: WW2 pilot's remarkable Holocaust rescue secret". Royal Star & Garter. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  7. ^ Jones, Mari (31 January 2017). "Meet the holocaust survivor who lost 81 members of his family". northwales. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  8. ^ "Holocaust survivor inspires local schools". The Mail. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  9. ^ "Bingley Grammar School | Bingley Grammar School - Arek Hersh visits Yr 9". Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  10. ^ "Arek Hersh, author of A Detail of History | Apostrophe Books". Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  11. ^ Retrieved 6 January 2020. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "Arek Hersh". Survivor Stories of The Holocaust. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  13. ^ "Arek - How did a small boy escape the Nazi holocaust?". Archived from the original on 26 November 2013. Retrieved 6 September 2013.
  14. ^ "Holocaust survivor to be immortalised in Leeds sculpture". Retrieved 6 January 2020.

External links[edit]