Leeds Holocaust campaigner recognised in New Year honours list

Leeds has been well represented in the Queen’s New Year Honours list with several people from the city being recognised.

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 6:00 am
Gertrude Silman has been awarded an MBE in the New Year Honours.

From a woman whose parents perished in the Holocaust, to a man who has driven the development of apprenticeships across the county, this year’s awards are celebrating ordinary people making a difference.

Gertrude Silman is the life president of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA) and has been made an MBE for services to Holocaust Education.

The 90-year-old, of Queenshill Avenue, Moortown, said she had been surprised to be made an MBE as she had been happy to work for the community.

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Originally from Czechoslovakia, she was sent by her parents to England in 1939 at the age of nine where she was fostered by numerous families. She came to Leeds to go to university and met her future husband.

Mrs Silman became a university lecturer in biochemistry but in 1995 also became one of the founder members of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA) which was set up to reduce the isolation of Holocaust survivors, refugees and Kindertransportees in the north of England.

From 2001 the survivors started to engage with schools as survivors felt they wanted to share their stories. Mrs Silman has told her personal story to more than 75,000 young people over at least 15 years in schools and community groups in the north of England.

Of her work with the Association she said: “I have been secretary, chair, honorary life president – all of these things and in the last three years I have had several strokes and I have come back again.

“It is very dear to my heart because we need to be able to make a better world where people respect each other and live side by side irrespective of background and I feel quite passionate about that.”

She knows that her father died in Auschwitz and that her mother was one of the two million people never found.

After retirement Mrs Silman set about doing voluntary work with HSFA and also the Leeds Older People’s Forum, especially after being widowed in 2004.

She added: “It is a surprise but a very pleasant one. I have done voluntary work all of my life. It goes back to someone many years ago saying to me, ‘people helped you, so you have to give something back’ and I took that to heart.”


Who else in Leeds and Wakefield has been awarded honours?


* Thomas Messenger Riordan. Chief executive Leeds City Council. For services to Local Government.


* Ali Akbor. Chief executive Officer Unity Housing Association. For services to the community in Leeds.

* Professor Philip Howard. Consultant Pharmacist Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and lately National Project Lead, Antimicrobial Resistance, NHS Improvement. For services to Healthcare.


* Col Patrick Cairns, DL. Chief executive, St George's Police Children's Trust and Police Treatment Centres Charities. For services to Police Charities.

* Francis Stephen Clayton. Chair Yorkshire and the Humber Apprenticeship Ambassador Network. For services to Apprenticeships.

* Kathryn Anne Farrington. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator Drighlington Primary School, Leeds. For services to Children and Young People.

* Maureen Alyson Hughes. Foster Carer Leeds City Council. For services to Children and Young People in Leeds.

* William George Hughes. Foster Carer Leeds City Council. For services to Children and Young People in Leeds.

* Ruth Terry. Head of Service Children's Social Work, Leeds City Council. For services to Children and Families.

* Angela Wright. Foster Carer Wakefield Metropolitan District Council. For services to Children in Wakefield.


* Pauline Janet Burns. For services to the community in Knottlingley. West Yorkshire.

* Amy Hearn. For services to Libraries.