Lily Ebert meeting the King, then the Prince of Wales, at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace (Picture: Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)
An Auschwitz survivor who feared she would never have another birthday is enjoying a double celebration – turning 99 and receiving an MBE.
Lily Ebert was awarded for services to Holocaust education in the New Year Honours List – the first overseen by King Charles, who wrote the foreword to her bestselling book.
It was announced just after her 99th birthday on Friday, which she marked with a family trip to the seaside – proving, in her own words, that ‘the Nazis did not win’.
Lily also has a TikTok account with almost two million followers, helped by her 19-year-old great-grandson Dov Forman.
The pair co-authored her New York Times and Sunday Times bestseller ‘Lily’s Promise: How I Survived Auschwitz and Found the Strength to Live’.
It tells of her childhood in Hungary, the deaths of her mother and two youngest siblings in Auschwitz, and what it was like to survive.
She told herself at the time that, should she make it out alive, she would tell the world the truth about the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler’s regime.
Lily celebrated her 99th birthday on Bournemouth beach (Picture: Dov Forman / SWNS)
In one of her TikTok videos, she describes the dehumanising experience of concentration camp guards tattooing her prison number on her arm. Speaking from a sunny garden, she tells viewers: ‘My number is A-10572, that is what I was. I was not my name, we were not humans, we were only a number.
‘Most women had not the period in the camp, because our body was so weak that we could not get our period.
‘It was not normal life in the camp, nothing was normal, the food was not normal, the sleeping was not sleeping. It was an artificial life.’
And in a viral birthday tweet featuring a picture of Lily grinning on Bournemouth beach, Dov quoted his great-grandmother as saying: ‘I never thought I would survive Auschwitz and have another birthday.
‘At 99, I celebrate to show that the Nazis did not win.’
Lily with her great-grandson Dov Forman (Picture: Dov Forman/SWNS)
Dov said: ‘When it comes to these special milestones like birthdays I always try and do something special, because as my great grandmother said, she never thought she would celebrate another birthday.
‘Now she does, surrounded by 10 grandchildren and 36 great grandchildren.
‘It’s really so incredible to see that she not only survived but she thrived, she really is the queen of the family.
‘We’re all incredibly close, the whole family, she really is close with every single child, grandchild and great grandchild.
‘I think she has an incredible bond with every single one of us and there’s so much you can learn from Holocaust survivors in general, and also my great grandmother.
‘There’s so much that I’ve learned from and gained from her.’
Dov has become particularly close with his great grandmother over the past two years, by writing the book together about her life.
Lily (second right) in 1945 after being liberated from Auschwitz by US soldiers (Picture: Supplied)
Lily’s father died in 1942 when she was 20 and not long afterwards she was deported to Auschwitz along with her mother, her younger brother and three younger sisters, who were among the last people transported from Hungary.
Her mother, younger brother, and youngest sister were taken straight to the gas chambers and murdered, while Lily and two more sisters were put to slave labour work as seamstresses before being taken to an ammunition factory in October 1944.
They would stay there until they were taken on a death march in April 1945 and eventually liberated by US soldiers.
Once the war ended she stayed in Germany for a few months, then travelled to Switzerland, and to Israel in 1946 where she remained for over two decades – before moving to Britain in 1967, where she now lives in Golders Green, north London.
Dov said she often praises the UK because it ‘really welcomed her with open arms’, adding: ‘And I know many other Holocaust survivors feel the same.’
He added: ‘I want to celebrate the fact that my great grandmother, now 99, can celebrate her survival surrounded by family, and is still able to continue with a smile on her face.
‘I think that’s what other people want to celebrate too, they look for that joy in life and when they see someone who spreads that light in the darkness, that’s something which people find quite special.
Lily and Dov mark her 99th birthday (Picture: Dov Forman/SWNS)
‘She is absolutely incredible, her will to live and carry on, and how much she loves life, is something which is unparalleled and unmatched – and something I’ve not seen in anyone else apart from other Holocaust survivors.
‘Every Friday night we’re together as a family, with my great grandmother, and she tried to get as many of the family there together as she can – I think she’s instilled that value into every single one of us.
‘She’s also incredibly youthful and fun and energetic. I think that’s why I am very energetic and when I have a passion and a cause I carry it through.
‘When I suggested we set up a TikTok account she didn’t even hesitate – she joked and said, “I’m not dancing, but I’ll do it.”
‘It shows her youthful nature, and also that she wants to create change and do it in a way in which she can reach younger generations.
‘We read the messages she receives and she is consistently blown away at the love people put out.
‘But she doesn’t do this for that, she educates because this is the promise she made herself in Auschwitz – that if she survived, against all odds, she would tell people her story.
‘She never really thought people would listen, but it’s not just been a few people listening, there have been hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people interacting on her birthday.
‘She said when she was in the hell of Auschwitz she never thought she would have another birthday, and here she is, and I think it is the ultimate way of showing that the Nazis did not win.’
Welcoming her MBE, Lily said in a statement: ‘I am so thankful that I get to share this honour with my whole family of three children, 10 grandchildren, and 36 great-grandchildren.
‘They truly are my greatest blessing, and we are all united in our gratitude and pride.
‘The mission that I, along with many other survivors share, is to educate about the horrors the Holocaust and ensure that the past is never repeated. We will never give up on this mission.
‘Our journey towards this goal has just begun, and it is up to all of us to ensure that it continues and remains alive.
Lily had feared she would never see another birthday, but now enters her 100th year (Picture: Dov Forman/SWNS)
‘Working with my great-grandson Dov over the past few years to educate the world about my story, both through social media and our book, Lily’s Promise, has been so special.
‘I am continually reassured by him that my story will live on in the future.. I promised myself in Auschwitz that if I survived, I would tell my story to the world.
‘I feel that this promise is being fulfilled. There is still, however, a long way for us to go.’
Lily was among seven Holocaust survivors featured in a Buckingham Palace exhibition of paintings commissioned by Charles, who she met during its launch in January last year ahead of the annual Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.
The date marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, where more than 1million people were murdered.
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