The 27th of January is Holocaust Memorial Day, marking the day in 1945 when the Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated. This year, the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) is planting a tree in Bradford, along with a time capsule containing the stories of two of its past members – Rudolf Leaver and Albert Waxman – who came to Bradford as refugees during the 1930s.

In the build up to WWII, around 10,000 Jewish children were brought over from Germany and Austria to the UK through the Kindertransport mission, including a 14-year-old Albert Waxman. He was one of 24 boys and 1 girl who lived in the Bradford Jewish Refugee Hostel, which was outfitted by Bradford’s existing Jewish community along with other local supporters. He was brought over after his family faced violence and persecution, including the destruction of their home during Kristallnacht. Waxman spoke about the event as an adult:

“They smashed up stoves, cut up mattresses, threw it out the windows, took window frames out, and completely destroyed our home, which we’d never return to again.”

Waxman stayed in the local area for much of the rest of his life, returning to Bradford after briefly re-joining his parents in Germany after the war, and started his own textiles business. In 1989, he organized a reunion between the 25 children brought to the hostel, 50 years on from their arrival in the UK. Some of the group had stayed local, while others had found homes all over the world. Another of the hostel boys said of their journey to Bradford:

“I tell people, I won the biggest raffle in the world: I won my life in a raffle.”

You can watch a documentary about the 50th anniversary reunion here: Bradford Kinder Transport Hostel P1.m4v - YouTube

Rudolf Leaver was another child that travelled to England amidst growing tensions in Germany in the 1930s, coming over with his family in 1937. The Leaver’s family friends, who they supported in their journey to Britain, the Egels, ran the boys’ hostel that Waxman attended.

Leaver was interviewed as part of the Association of Jewish Refugees “Refugee Voices” project, during which he remembered his family leaving Germany after his parent’s arrest by Gestapo officers:

“After coffee-time my father kept pacing up & down. I was sitting on the settee. As he passed me he bent down & whispered 'We are going to England'… We left in November 1937, we could take all our belongings, except valuables.”

After attending school and university in West Yorkshire, then working as a dentist in London, Leaver joined the army, serving until 1953.

Both of these stories make up part of Bradford's history as a city shaped by migration, and as a city which has often welcomed refugees. Leaver and Waxman were both able to have a positive impact, serving their local communities and building lives for themselves that would never have been possible if they hadn’t left Germany when they did. Local support for the Bradford Jewish Refugee Hostel transcended lines of religion, race, and economic standing, and ensured that 25 young people had a home free from persecution. Bradford continues to offer safe refuge for those escaping conflict, recently welcoming 7 Afghan refugee families, who will hopefully be shown the same kindness that Waxman and Leaver were upon their arrival to the UK.

 

 

Links:

https://www.ajrrefugeevoices.org.uk/RefugeeVoices/Rudolf-Leavor

https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/obituaries/albert-waxman-1749676

Bradford takes in seven Afghan refugee families | Bradford Telegraph and Argus (thetelegraphandargus.co.uk)

The Hostel: Kindertransport | Making Their Mark: Bradford Jewish

The kindness of Bradford we will never forget | Bradford Telegraph and Argus (thetelegraphandargus.co.uk)

 

Holocaust Memorial Day Trust Resources:

2022 resources for schools: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust | Days to remember (hmd.org.uk)

Take part from home: Holocaust Memorial Day Trust | HMD Together

Learn more about commemorating HMD: Holocaust Memorial Day – The big picture (subtitled) - YouTube

Blog written by Matty Kingston.