An Unsung Hero
By Eva Spiers
My father, Simon Bloomberg was one of Great Britain’s unsung heroes. He was a clever man, a generous person who was most forgiving and loved by everyone. He served in the British Army in World War I, in the Colonial Service during World War II, and devoted His life to serving the people of the Commonwealth. He is best known for his tireless work amongst Displaced People in Europe from 1945 to 1948, including his own people, the Jews.
He considered it a privilege to bring hope into the desperate lives of thousands who had lost their homes, their family members and for some, the very will to live. While many of these unfortunate souls were Jewish it wasn’t just Jews he helped. He assisted many Poles, Ukranians, Hungarians, and others and helped those who had survived the Holocaust recover from the horrors of the Nazi regime.
Though honoured by King George VI with a CBE and recognised by the Jewish Committee For Relief Abroad his extraordinary contribution towards resettling homeless people across Europe has never been documented publically nor have his deep insights into post-War Europe been made known, despite that fact that he was a prolific writer.
‘Pop’ sent hundreds of letters to us from towns and cities across Europe and I encouraged him to share his experiences more widely. He wrote this book in the 1970s, but sadly it never made the bookshelves while he was alive. But now as we remember the Centenary of the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and move towards the seventy-fifth Anniversary of the End of the Holocaust, in 2020, I’m delighted his story is finally published. My thanks to Al Gibson for making sense of my dad’s manuscript and framing it in a context that is still relevant for today. I feel I have been given a gift from God because I never thought it was possible to encapsulate my father’s story in such a dynamic way and I am extremely grateful for what this book achieves.
For me, it provides a remarkable historical record that challenges prejudice and refutes those who deny the horrors of the past so they aren’t repeated. It also instills such hope for the future, that no matter how displaced we may be, there is a place for each one of us, that we can call home, and where we can be the best possible neighbours to those next door as well as to those who are homeless.
“For me, Life After Belsen provides a remarkable historical record that challenges prejudice, refutes those who deny past horrors, and instills such hope that no matter how displaced we may be, there is a home waiting for us.”
I had to do something with the documents my sister so carefully collected, the seventy-year-old dairies my father dutifully wrote, the hundreds of handwritten letters he penned to my mother, overflowing with love and his reams of typed pages filled with nuggets of wisdom, wit, and breadth of view. Now you hold them in your hand, judiciously compiled into a readable format that will inspire you, whether you’re interested in history or not, whether you’re Jewish or not and whether you’re an up and coming reader like my grandchildren or share my vintage! Now in my eighties myself, as I look back on all my father accomplished I realise how important it is to leave a legacy to coming generations that will challenge them in the years that lie ahead. In a world where tragically people are still displaced and refugees are more numerous than ever, my father’s example is a timeless reminder to forsake racism, persecution, and genocide and be a better neighbour wherever we find ourselves.
Like Pop who served in different parts of the world, East Africa, Europe and the West Indies, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren now live on different continents. The families he helped resettle can also be found in an A to Z of nations. I don’t know their names, many of them will have passed on by now, but I still hope to hear from their families. I am glad my family was able to contribute towards bringing some light during a time of great darkness. What follows is my father’s story that shows how we can make a difference despite the obstacles that face us.
“To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted.” (Isaiah 61:3)
Dr Eva (Bloomberg) Spiers (PhD)
Brisbane, Australia, 2017