Leo Rosengarten – Memories


One of seven children, Leo was born in Witten-Heven, Westphalia, and grew up in neighbouring Herbede, not far from Dortmund. His parents were Hermann and Ida Rosengarten. He went to school in Herbede, and left at fifteen or sixteen to become a labourer and bricklayer.

Leo was incarcerated in Dachau, probably shortly after Kristallnacht in November 1938. He was released sometime in the spring or summer of 1939, on condition that he not return to Germany. He sought to go to the US, and through the Society of Friends (the Quakers) found a potential sponsor in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, two of his sisters had made their way to England, and petitioned the German Jewish Aid Society for help to enable him to join them in London.

Their efforts were successful, and in the summer of 1939 Leo was able to make his way via Ostend to England and Kitchener Camp at Richborough. He was held there as an enemy alien, then enlisted in the Pioneer Corps. It was at this time that he got married. His bride, Helga Kahn, was herself a refugee who had escaped to England earlier in 1939, with the help of her younger sister in Manchester. There she worked in domestic service in the household of a university researcher (a future Nobel prizewinner) until I was born in 1940.

Leo’s time of service in the Pioneer Corps was brief; he was discharged on medical grounds, sought to rejoin after his recovery, but was denied. He and Helga moved to Manchester in the summer of 1940, where he worked in a factory until the end of the war. After the war, he began a small building and decorating business, which he gave up with age and illness around 1970. He died in 1975, and is buried in Southern Cemetery, Manchester.

Leo’s family was heavily impacted by Nazi persecution. His parents were arrested and sent to Theresienstadt in 1942, where his father died. His mother Ida survived the camp ordeal and lived until 1950. Two of his sisters, Else and Herta, died in Theresienstadt; two others, Leni and Lotte, managed to escape to England, then emigrated to the US. His brother Max died in Theresienstadt, and his brother Arthur was murdered at a camp in Lublin. Leo’s cousin Manfred Rosengarten was one of the Jewish refugees who escaped to Shanghai, where he remained until 1946. Manfred and his wife Evelyn (now deceased) eventually settled in the US; his son Andy lives in British Columbia, his daughter Linda in California.

Leo’s wife Helga also lost members of her family in the Holocaust. Her aunt was deported to Theresienstadt and killed in Treblinka; her older sister was murdered in Ravensbrück. They are commemorated by stolpersteine in Frankfurt am Main, and a sculpture in Oberursel.

Submitted by Herbert Rosengarten for his father, Leo