14 February 2017

Jack Kagan (1929-2016)

It is with great sadness that we learned about the death of Jack Kagan, one of the last surviving members of the Bielski partisan group. He passed away in December 2016.

Jack (Idel) Kagan was born in 1929 in Nowogródek, a small town that then belonged to Poland. His childhood, which was characterized by life in a Jewish Shtetl, came to an abrupt end with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. Two years of Soviet occupation were followed by German occupation and the mass murder of the Jews. His mother Dvore and his sister Nachama were killed in mass shootings, his father Yankel died in a German camp. Idel was one of about 120 prisoners of the ghetto who managed to escape through a tunnel that they dug themselves and to join the partisans operating in the forest. This unit of Jewish fighters saved the lives of about 1,200 Jews – unique in the history of the Holocaust.

After the war, Jack Kagan emigrated to London. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he commissioned several memorials in his native town that is now part of Belarus. He devoted much of his energy to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust. The story of his family is one of 15 that are being presented in the Room of Families at the Holocaust Memorial's Information Centre in Berlin. In 2012, the Foundation published the German translation of his memoirs. At the book presentation ceremony held at the British Embassy, Jack held a speech that is remembered by all who were present. With his passing, the Foundation loses a friend whose kindliness and wisdom was an example for us all.

Picture: Jack (Idel) Kagan 1947 (Photo on the identification card from the DP-Camp Landsberg am Lech) and 2012 (in the British Embassy in Berlin in the occasion of the presentation of his memories »Freiheit, Krieg und Rache«)