'Words cannot explain how much this means to me'

King Charles honors 99-year-old survivor for her role in UK Holocaust education

Lily Ebert becomes a Member of the Order of the British Empire at Windsor Castle after being included in the New Year Honors list

  • Lily Ebert visiting Auschwitz in this undated photo. (Courtesy)
    Lily Ebert visiting Auschwitz in this undated photo. (Courtesy)
  • Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert and Dov Forman, authors of 'Lily's Promise.' (Courtesy)
    Holocaust survivor Lily Ebert and Dov Forman, authors of 'Lily's Promise.' (Courtesy)
  • Lily Ebert holds photos of her sisters on a visit to Auschwitz. (Courtesy)
    Lily Ebert holds photos of her sisters on a visit to Auschwitz. (Courtesy)
  • The final photo of the Ebert children all together, in 1943. From left to right: Piri, Berta, Imi, Lily and Rene. Brother Bela is not pictured. (Courtesy)
    The final photo of the Ebert children all together, in 1943. From left to right: Piri, Berta, Imi, Lily and Rene. Brother Bela is not pictured. (Courtesy)

Jewish News — A 99-year-old great-grandmother who survived the Holocaust and became a founding member of the UK’s Holocaust Survivor Centre told the PA news agency that “words cannot explain how much this means to me” after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by King Charles III.

Lily Ebert was recognized for her contribution to Holocaust education at Windsor Castle on Tuesday after being included in the New Year Honors list — the first overseen by Charles since his ascension to the throne.

With her while she accepted the award was her great-grandson, 19-year-old Dov Forman.

The pair have accrued billions of views on video-sharing platform TikTok in an effort to educate the younger generation on the Holocaust.

“Not so long ago, there were people who wanted to kill me for my religion, and today I received this honor,” Ebert said from Windsor Castle, in a room that celebrates the life of the Jewish Queen Esther.

“Words cannot explain how much this means to me,” she said. “I promised myself that if I survived, then I would tell the whole world what had happened to us in Auschwitz — that there were people killed for no other reason than their beliefs, because we were believed not to be worthy of life.”

She said that she has always tried to be a positive force in the world and encourage others to “appreciate our differences and learn from each other, and be kind to everyone.”

Lily Ebert and Dov Forman, authors of ‘Lily’s Promise.’ (Courtesy)

“Something terrible like that should never, ever happen again. As long as I am alive I will teach the world to be tolerant,” she added.

She also spoke about the importance of educating people through social media, in particular TikTok.

“I find [educating people through TikTok] very important because the youngsters really want to learn and they should learn,” she said. “I don’t speak only what I learn — I went through it.”

Ebert was freed from Auschwitz 78 years ago at the age of 20, and spent a year in Switzerland before moving in 1946 to Israel, then under British rule in Palestine.

She migrated to the UK in 1967 with her husband, Samuel, and began a life of educating the world about the horrors of the Holocaust.

Ebert is now based in north London, and is a mother of three, a grandmother of 10, and became a great-grandmother for the 36th time in 2022.

The final photo of the Ebert children all together, in 1943. From left to right: Piri, Berta, Imi, Lily and Rene. Brother Bela is not pictured. (Courtesy)

The king wrote a foreword for her book, “Lily’s Promise,” as Ebert spoke about her appreciation for the monarch whom she has met on a series of occasions, including at one of his Christmas parties.

“He is a very special human being,” Ebert said. “It must be a very difficult job and he does it with such a love and understanding, that I thank him very much. I never thought that I would have the opportunity to thank him personally.”

She added that news of her MBE arrived via a letter and that the recognition is “very special.”

“People are still here in this world and [are showing] their respect — what we [should] try to have for the whole community,” said Ebert.

Forman told the PA news agency that it was “humbling” to witness his grandmother become an MBE.

“It is so humbling to be here today, together with four generations of my great-grandmother’s family as she accepted her MBE. It was very moving to see the tears rolling down her face as she told the King that she never expected to survive the Holocaust, let alone receive an honor from the King of England.”

He added that the following they have gained on TikTok is partly to “take a torch and pass it to others.”

Lily Ebert, second-right, in the video reel taken by US troops while she was boarding a train after liberation of Buchenwald (Screen grab)

“When you listen to a Holocaust survivor, when you listen to a witness, you become a witness,” Forman told PA. “And so every single person that hears our story on TiKTok… they learn the lessons of the past.”

“So I’m incredibly honored and humbled to have helped my great-grandmother go viral and provided her with a platform and every single day we get thousands of comments from across the world, from countries even where they are banned from learning and teaching about the Holocaust,” Forman said.

Forman spoke about visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial site for the first time on January 19.

“I really tried to imagine my great-grandmother being there, in the same place that I was then standing… I was not able to comprehend how she survived such an experience,” he said.

“We must not hesitate to place responsibility upon the perpetrators who had anything to do with enabling the terrors that befell those like my great grandmother… Having said that, this is not the biggest risk that faces us today. Our biggest concern regards the third category of ordinary people within the scope of those involved in the Holocaust: the bystanders,” Forman said.

“We cannot allow ourselves to become bystanders — my work with my great-grandmother, and this trip [to Auschwitz] have ingrained in me that it is up to us, those of the more recent generations, my generation, to make sure that we do not stand idly by as long as there is hatred in this world.”

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