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Rudi Leavor

Rudi’s family had a happy life in Berlin but were forced to flee due to the rising antisemitism and persecution in Germany after 1933. They settled and made a new life in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

Rudi was born in Berlin in 1926. The family were Jewish Orthodox and kept a kosher home, but were fully assimilated into German culture and society. Rudi’s father, a dentist, had served in the Imperial German Army in the First World War in 1914 and had received the Iron Cross, Second Class for bravery. Rudi attended a German school from the age of six and had many Jewish and non-Jewish friends.

“We were fully integrated and assimilated into German society, German culture and my parents had many non-Jewish friends. So we considered ourselves to be Germans and we happened to be Jewish as well.”

Rudi said that in general he experienced minimal antisemitism at school from the children and teachers. He remembered only one incident when a fellow pupil slapped him on the cheek in the street.

Rudi’s main memory of the Nazis before 1936 was seeing and hearing the marches of SS and SA men along the main road where he lived. Rudi found these marches, and the aggressive songs the marchers sung, terrifying. In 1936, Rudi’s parents were arrested for a short time. The incident caused them to firmly decide to leave Germany. To obtain family visas, his father visited England five times and his mother visited three times. Finally, his father was able to secure permission from the Dental Board of the UK to work as a dentist.  Crossing the English Channel, Rudi’s father took everyone to the stern of the ship, and ceremoniously threw the keys to their apartment overboard and said, “That’s the end of Germany for us.”

The family finally moved to Bradford in West Yorkshire on 10 November 1937. Rudi was accepted into Bradford Grammar School where he learnt English quickly. At the end of the school year, he had made such good progress that he jumped the next year and went straight into the next higher class. Despite poor examination results, Rudi followed in his father’s footsteps by qualifying as a dentist before undertaking his National Service in the army.

Rudi married his wife Marianne in 1955 and they settled in Bradford, opening a dental practice in Heckmondwike. They had four children, and eventually eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Many of Rudi’s wider family perished in the Holocaust. Rudi remembered:

“I think it’s extremely important for children or adults for that matter should learn about the Holocaust… Well, the Holocaust is something that has never happened before and hopefully will never happen again although people say that the Crusades were terrible, but I think the Holocaust beats them all in cruelty and in unprovoked cruelty. So, it’s important that the world knows, but unfortunately there are some heads of government for instance who happen to be good speakers and get re-elected as presidents of their respective country who think otherwise… If you take a spark to a haystack, it’s only a small thing but within a matter of minutes it can be turned into a raging inferno.”

Rudi was an active member of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association for many years. As part of his efforts to combat misunderstanding and hatred, Rudi was very active in interfaith work and was awarded the British Empire Medal for his efforts in December 2017. Rudi passed away in 2021 and is sadly missed by all of his friends and colleagues.

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