AN oak tree has been planted at a Leicester park to celebrate the life of a renowned jewish physicist who fled Nazi persecution prior to World War II.
On Tuesday (January 25), an oak was planted at the city’s Western Park, to celebrate the life of Benjamin Abeles – the renowned physicist who arrived in England as a refugee from Prague on the Kinder-transport back in 1939.
Mr Abeles, who was of Jewish origin, died in Leicester in 2020 at the age of 95.
He had lived in the city since 2009.
The tree was planted as part of a national campaign to plant 80 trees to mark the 80th anniversary of the Association of Jewish Refugees – the charity which supports Holocaust survivors and refugees in the UK.
On the day of the planting, Mr Abeles’ wife Helen told Pukaar News that Western Park was a special place for her and her late husband, whose research led to the technology used to power the Voyager spacecraft.
“It’s incredibly meaningful for me. His ashes are interred a long way away so to have a place that I can come to that represents Ben and the fact that it’s a tree in this park, which we so much enjoyed together, and that fact that it’s part of a much wider initiative is a very beautiful thing,” she said.
The tree planting comes ahead of World Holocaust Memorial Day, on Thursday (January 27), which marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.
The day provides an opportunity to remember the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime, those who have lost their lives in genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur, and all those seeking sanctuary from persecution.
Helen said that she hoped her husband’s tree could be used to educate child at nearby schools about the refugees who came to the UK from Nazi Europe.
“We’re already talking about using the example of the tree and Ben’s story to think about the refugees who came here from Nazi Europe, but also to think about refugees who are still arriving in our city with different conflicts and different kinds of oppression that people are suffering around the world,” she said.
“To use the tree to do some work with the children around that is something I would support, and Ben would totally have supported.”
To find out more about the tree planting project by the Association of Jewish Refugees, visit their website at: www.ajr.org.uk/