Belmont Heroes
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Wednesday 30th March 2022

In the Autumn of 2021 Belmont shul launched a twin initiative to honour and show appreciation to ‘Belmont Heroes,’. Two specially designed sculpted trees were set in the shul gardens. On one were attached Magen Davids engraved with the names of its members and relatives who had served in armed forces since 1914. Honorees had served in the British, United States, Red and South African army, in the Resistance and Partisans, in war and national service and more recently the IDF. The Stars include grandparents who had served in the German Army during WW1, which of course didn’t protect them from being murdered during WW2. On the other, inscribed on roundels are the names of the Righteous of the Nations who had saved the lives of Belmont members or their families during the Holocaust. This tree also honours all 22 UK Citizens honoured by Yad Vashem, Princess Alice and consuls who rubber stamped false visa applications saving the lives of thousands. Stories began to pour in from members, of prisoners of war in the far east, the Jewish Brigade, entering Belsen, the large numbers who served especially in the RAF, Royal Artillery and Engineers and Jerusalem in both World Wars. Honorees served on land, sea and air in seventeen countries, in twenty varied roles.

One member recorded the Dutch families who fostered him whilst his parents were hidden – and survived and another whose father lived openly as a Jew in a Polish village with no one betraying him. We had an on-line presentation from the daughter of a lady saved by 10 British Prisoners of War – a story shared with Avanti - our local Hindu High school. All these stories were brought together in an 88 page publication, Belmont Heroes, distributed to all members, along with sufficient copies to give to local high school students as part of Belmont’s annual holocaust day education programme. When this initiative was conceived we could not have imagined that yet another Jewish community in Europe would be part of the murderous threat of war and despotism. Our trees specially honour those who lost their lives in conflict and the millions in the Allies who risked theirs in the name of freedom.

by David Lerner