Rudi Leavor | Berlin to Bradford

"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 was born in Berlin in 1926 and spent his childhood years there with his parents and younger sister. Rudi's father was a dentist and the family lived in a flat with one room set aside as his father's surgery. The family were orthodox and kept a kosher home but were also fully integrated into German culture and society. Rudi's parents had many non-Jewish friends. Their best friends were non-Jewish and the lady of the couple taught Rudi to play the piano.

 

Rudi went to a German school from the age of six and only experienced one anti-Semitic incident during his four years at primary school. His main memory of the Nazis before 1936 is of 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.

 

Rudi pinpoints the time things changed for his family to an incident in 1936. As Rudi was setting off for school, two plain-clothes Gestapo arrived at the flat and pushed their way into the flat while his parents were still in bed. After Rudi had left, the Gestapo told his parents to be ready in 10 minutes to go to the headquarters of the Lodge. Rudi's father was President and his mother was Treasurer of the ladies' Lodge. They were told to bring with them any money they had that belonged to the Lodge. Once ready, they were taken to the Lodge where other members were already assembled, and made to stand silently in a line for hours. Towards the end of the afternoon Rudi's mother was forced to hand over the money she had brought with her which belonged to the Lodge. Finally the people were released and told to make their own way home.

 

After that, Rudi's parents decided they needed to get ready to leave. His father came to England five times, and his mother three times, in order to get entry visas for the family. His father also had to get permission from the dental board to work as a dentist. He was told to avoid going to London and Manchester, as there were already too many refugee dentists in those towns. However Rudi's mother had a distant relative in Bradford who was very helpful in enabling him to set up a dental practice there. The family moved to Bradford on 10 November 1937.

 

On arrival they had to start life again from scratch. Rudi's father had to start earning a living immediately, which wasn't easy, and they lived in a cold house. Thankfully his parents were able to ship their furniture out with them. Rudi's father enrolled him in Bradford grammar school where he made rapid progress in learning English, though he found it hard to make friends. However, although it was difficult at first, the family were very glad to get out of Germany and Bradford became home straight away.

 

Rudi did National Service in the Army and followed in his father's footsteps in training to be a dentist. He met his future wife Marianne after giving a talk to a youth group attached to a London synagogue. Rudi and Marianne settled in Bradford and in 1959 decided to change their name, from Rudi's original surname Liebowitz to the Anglicised version Leavor. For many years Rudi has been an active member of the Reform synagogue in Bradford. He and Marianne have four children and eight grandchildren.

 

Videos

    • Chapter 1: Rudi's home and early childhood in Berlin (2 mins 51)

    • Rudi chapter 1
    • Chapter 2: Rudi's growing awareness of the threat to Jews in Berlin (5 mins 11)

    • Rudi chapter 2
    • Chapter 3: Rudi describes an attack on the local synagogue and the decision to leave Berlin (5 mins 34)

    • Rudi chapter 3
    • Chapter 4: Rudi describes the journey from Berlin to Bradford (5 mins 39)

    • Rudi chapter 4
    • Chapter 5: Rudi follows in his father's footsteps and becomes a dentist (3 mins 02)

    • Rudi chapter 5
    • Chapter 6: Rudi describes meeting wife Marianne and building a life in Bradford (7 mins 10)

    • Rudi chapter 6
    • Chapter 7: Rudi explains the importance of faith in his life (3 mins 44)

    • Rudi chapter 7
    • Chapter 8: Rudi reflects on the significance of the Holocaust and of Holocaust education (5 mins 37)

    • Rudi chapter 8
    • Chapter 9: Rudi describes the impact of the Holocaust on his family (5 mins 38)

    • Rudi chapter 9