Obituary

16th October 2009 at 01:00

Reverend Ernest Levy, whose testimony is studied by primary students in Scotland in The Holocaust: a teaching pack for primary schools, has died at the age of 84.

Born in Bratislava, the youngest of eight children, Ernest was 13 years old when he and his orthodox Jewish family were herded out of their home town and sent to a "no man's land" area on the Czechoslovak-Hungary border. His testimony told of his experiences in his new "home" in Budapest; his treatment in the concentration camps, which included 10 months in Wustegiersdorf in Upper Silesia and five days in Auschwitz; his participation in the death marches; and his liberation at Bergen- Belsen.

Every survivor has a unique story to tell, but none more so than the Reverend Levy. Whether his audience were lay leaders, politicians, church and interfaith groups, youth community groups, teachers, student teachers, primary or secondary pupils, his testimony focused as much on his compassion for his fellow man as it did on his suffering and loss.

His faith in his fellow man was inspirational. Keen to engage with his audience, he answered every question patiently and respectfully - even those who revealed a prejudice or ignorance or, in the case of some pupils, a question that had been answered in the content of his talk. He did so because of his strong commitment to Holocaust education. In responding to a P7 pupil who had asked him whether he had seen Anne Frank, he replied: "No, we didn't know about Anne Frank then. But there were thousands of `Anne Franks' in Belsen. They were not far from the block where I was."

Speaking publicly about the Holocaust was emotionally draining and became difficult for him. When the first group of pupils across Scotland visited Auschwitz in 2005, Reverend Levy spoke to them at the airport before they left. Last year, he spoke at a student teachers' conference in Glasgow organised by the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust and earlier this year, despite failing health, he talked to young people in North Ayrshire.

Reverend Levy came to Scotland in 1961 and soon became cantor of Giffnock and Newlands Synagogue, the largest synagogue in Scotland. He said that Scottish people were "warm-hearted, friendly people" and regarded Scotland as "a peaceful corner in the world".

Awarded the OBE in 2002 in recognition of his services to interfaith relations and Holocaust education, Reverend Levy is the author of two books, Just One More Dance (1998), from which the play of the same name was first performed at the Tramway Theatre, Glasgow in 2003, and The Single Light (2007).

Reverend Levy is survived by a sister, son, daughter and four grandchildren.

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