Holocaust survivor Tomi Reichental has been honoured for his heroism and his remarkable mission to promote reconciliation.
Mr Reichental, 79, who as a child survived the horror of the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp, was presented with the inaugural Voxpro Diplomat Global Achievement Award on board the Irish Naval ship LÉ Samuel Beckett in Cork last night.
He was chosen to honour his incredible journey through life, and for his unstinting passion in the search for truth and reconciliation since breaking his decades-long silence in 2011 about his Holocaust experience.
The judging panel also hailed his work in Irish schools promoting tolerance, respect for difference and the rejection of racism and discrimination.
Voxpro CEO Dan Kiely said Mr Reichental’s “very powerful story has focused our hearts and minds on a man who has lived through a very real and life-changing experience”.
Born in to a Jewish family in Slovakia in 1935, Mr Reichental is one of only two Holocaust survivors left in Ireland.
He was just nine in October 1944 when he and 12 other family members were rounded up by the Gestapo in Bratislava.
They were taken to a detention camp before Tomi, his mother Judith, brother Miki, grandmother Rosalia and two other relatives were dumped into a cattle wagon on a train bound for Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The others were sent to the slave labour camp at Buchenwald.
Although starving and close to death, Tomi survived until the British Army liberated the camp inmates in 1945.
In total, 35 members of his extended family died in the Holocaust. Tomi, who came to Ireland in the late 1950s, raised a family and became a full citizen in 1977, remained silent about his experience for 55 years — “not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t”.
But he published a book, I Was A Boy In Belsen in 2011, and is now writing a second book. His life’s story featured in a powerful RTÉ radio documentary which led to the TV documentary, Close to Evil, in which Tomi had an emotional meeting with the granddaughter of the Nazi responsible for deporting him to Belsen.
He was chosen for the award from a shortlist suggested by up to 100 ambassadors and honorary consuls in Ireland. They were among 400 guests at the Diplomat Dinner in Silver Springs Moran Hotel in Cork last night, attended by guest speaker, Alan Joyce, Qantas Airlines CEO.
John X Miller, the honorary consul for Hungary, and Michael Mulcahy, the honorary consul for Poland, and directors of Diplomat magazine, said they were delighted to team up with Voxpro to create The Voxpro Diplomat Global Achievement Award.
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