A Toronto high school held a graduation ceremony on Friday for an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor who was forced to flee Vienna shortly before receiving his high school diploma.

Martin Maxwell was 14 years old when he escaped to England at the start of the Holocaust. At the time, he was just weeks away from graduation.

In November, he spoke to students at The York School near Yonge St. and St. Clair Ave. about his wartime experience. Staff and students were so moved by his words that they decided to give him an honourary diploma.

“I receive this honourary degree, not only for myself, but for my two little sisters and the million and a half children who died in the Holocaust, and other children who never had a chance to live long enough to go to school and graduate,” he said Friday.

Maxwell fled after the Nazi’s anti-Jewish pogrom in November, 1938.

Two of his sisters died in concentration camps, but Maxwell ended up in England and joined the British armed forces. He became a glider pilot and was later captured behind enemy lines.