Obituary: Rudi Leavor, Holocaust survivor

Rudi Leavor, who has died at 95, was a survivor of the Holocaust who became a leader of the small Jewish community in Bradford.

Heartfelt tributes have been paid to Bradford's Jewish community leader and Holocaust survivor Rudi Leavor who has died at the age of 95.

Rudi Leavor, who has died at 95, was a survivor of the Holocaust who became a leader of the small Jewish community in Bradford

Born in Berlin on May 31, 1926, he fled the city at the age of 11 after his father became increasingly worried about his family’s future in Germany under Hitler’s regime. An arrest by the Gestapo was the final straw.

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Mr Leavor senior, a dentist, secured a visa and was told to pick a destination in England other than London or Manchester, which were deemed to be already overcrowded with Jewish refugees.

The family chose Bradford, where Mr Leavor lived for the rest of his life and where his son also become a dentist.

Rudi recalled earlier this year the dramatic and confusing scenes as his father whispered into his ear that leaving Germany was the family’s only option.

“My parents, my sister and myself were fully integrated into German society,” he said. “We were good Germans, but also good Jews.

“We could feel anti-Semitism coming up, it wasn’t a fierce event or situation. My parents hadn’t thought of emigrating. One day they were arrested by the Gestapo, fortunately for just one day. It gave them the impetus to emigrate.

“I remember the day we left Berlin, my hometown. We were assembled with my grandmother, and her sisters for a coffee. I thought of how we were going to leave many relatives, including my grandmother, my uncles, aunts, who it was likely we’d never see again.”

He had no idea of the existence of the concentration camps, and when news of them finally reached Britain in 1945, it seemed “too unbelievable to be true”. Richard Dimbleby’s reports for the BBC from Bergen-Belsen were “so gross, so vicious” that they seemed impossible, he said.

Back in Yorkshire, Mr Leavor was at Bradford Grammar and then Leeds University, following which he had a successful dental practice in Heckmondwike.

He was also a member of the Leeds Philharmonic Choir for over 50 years, and sang at annual Holocaust memorials.

In 1975 he became president and chairman of the Bradford Reform Synagogue and in 2017 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his work with the local Jewish community and in interfaith and community relations.

He met his late wife Marianne, who was also a Jewish refugee from Breslau, in Bradford and had four children, eight grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.