“To have lived with hatred in my heart for so many years would have been self-destructive and exactly what the Nazis would have wanted.”

That was the powerful mantra Holocaust survivor Alec Ward carried around with him for nearly 80 years.

The grandfather died last Friday at the age of 91 – but now his grandson, Liron Velleman, wants to continue to tell his story to keep his legacy alive.

Ealing Times:

Born Abraham Warszaw, his remarkable tale begins in the town of Magnuszew in Poland. He was 12 when the Second World War broke out and the German army marched into the town.

He was taken to a ghetto with his three brothers, sister, father and stepmother.

With his father’s blessing, he managed to escape with his nine-year-old brother, Laib, and the pair spent three months living rough before they came across a group of Jewish prisoners.

But they were soon all rounded up by the SS and taken back to the ghetto. It was a heartbreaking return because he realised the rest of his family had been killed by the Nazis.

Tragedy struck again when little Laib was shot and killed at a slave camp.

Alec spent the next couple of years working in horrifying conditions in slave labour camps, often enduring gruelling 12-hour shifts, building mines in freezing temperatures.

During that time, he was starved and subject to painful beatings.

The camp in the Radom district was divided into three groups: Werk A, Werk B, and Werk C.

It was in Werk C, the most torturous of the three, where Alec spent the most of his time.

He recalled the hangings of prisoners, the selection, the dead bodies lying at the barbed fences.

Jewish prisoners who desperately tried to escape during the night were shot.

When his time at the camp came to an end, life did not improve for Alec.

He was taken to another slave labour camp in Czestochowa and while the work was physically harder, it was less dangerous to his health.

From there, he was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany where he lived in huts alongside 1,000 prisoners.

He described it “hell on earth.”

He was later transported to Flossberg near Leipzig and became friends with someone he referred to as “the singer.”

But on a terrifying 15-day train journey to a concentration camp in Austria, Alec thought he had lost his friend when he jumped off a train to escape the clutches of the Nazis.

It was at the final concentration camp where Alec’s horrifying ordeal of slave labour came to an end when he was freed by the American forces on May 5, 1945.

He was bought to England and looked forward to starting a new life.

But by sheer coincidence, one day in London he came across his friend – “the singer” who he was certain had died jumping off the train.

His name was Arthur Poznanski, who died in 2009.

Life soon got better for Alec. In 1952, he met Hettie Cohen and the pair married a year later. They lived in Stanmore and their union produced a daughter, Lyla, and son, Mark.

Sadly, Mark, an active member of Stanmore Synagogue Youth Service, died aged 23 from cancer.

A keen member of Elstree and Borehamwood United Synagogue, Alec and his wife moved to Borehamwood 30 years ago.

But he spent many of his final years educating young people and sharing his story of his time in Nazi Germany.

He decided that after the war, he would not hate anyone.

“To have lived with hatred in my heart for so many years would have been self-destructive and exactly what the Nazis would have wanted,” he regularly told people.

Alec’s grandson, Liron Velleman, has also paid tribute.

He said: “Grandpa is my hero and my inspiration.

“His determination to teach a generation 'I implore you not to hate', even after all his suffering and pain, together with a devotion to his wife Hettie and enormous love and care for the rest of the family, is a legacy that we all look up to and strive to live by.”

You can read Alec's full story here