MANFRED LOEWENHARDT, 1926 – 1965
Who was Freddie? Why should I care who he was? He was one of the very many cousins of my father Heinz Löwenhardt (1913-1989). Since both lived in Dortmund, Germany, until the mid-1930s, they will have met more than once. I never heard my father talk about Freddie – but then, neither did he talk about other relatives. Most of them had been murdered by the Nazi’s. That Freddie was special I learned only in 2011 when his brother Hans-Georg (1924-2016) established contact with me. Together they had managed to escape from Nazi-Germany in March 1939. The two boys were saved, their parents and sister Ursula (Ulla, 1930) were murdered in Auschwitz in October 1944.
In March 2016 the World Jewish Relief Archive in the UK mailed me the records of Manfred Loewenhardt, born in Germany in June 1926.(1) The central part of it consists of two large file cards with notes typed or handwritten by Manfred’s case officer(s) in London between January 1941 and March 1947. Of these six years, some four years are unaccounted for. There are no entries in the file for the twenty-two months between the boys’ arrival on 3 March 1939 and the first note of 15 January 1941; and no entries between mid-August 1943 and 30 March 1946. Nevertheless the file is good reason to delve into the Freddie’s history hoping to learn what sort of person he was.
Manfred and his siblings Hans-Georg and Ulla grew up in Hörde, a satellite town of the booming city of Dortmund in the so-called Ruhrgebiet. Their father Siegmund had a store in fine men’s clothing and advertised in the local newspaper. An imposing synagogue had been inaugurated in Hörde in 1900. I cannot tell how observant the family of Siegmund were. As so many German Jews, most of the family were highly secularised by this time.(2) But business during the High Holidays (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur) was out of the question, as testified by a collective advertisement of Jewish retailers in which Siegmund with his shop participated in the Autumn of 1924.
The boys had been born into a large family, a very large family. Their father Siegmund was one of twelve children born to their grandparents-Löwenhardt between 1873 and 1892. Grandfather Levi had died in the late 19th Century but grandmother Pauline lived nearby in Dortmund. She died at age 85 on 3 May 1933, within weeks after the anti-Jewish Nazi campaign had started. Hans-Georg and Manfred will have seen their grandmother often. And considering their age they will have been aware of her death in that dreadful spring of ’33.
Of the many aunts and uncles on their father’s side, some had emigrated before they were born: aunt Johanna to the USA in 1910, to be followed by uncle Hermann, Johanna’s brother, in 1921. Aunt Clara, their sister, had settled in Montevideo, Uruguay.
But in 1933 several uncles, aunts and cousins were living close by, either in the greater Dortmund area or elsewhere in the Ruhrgebiet. Uncle Adolf with aunt Julia and their sons Heinz (20) and Werner (14) were in Dortmund-Lindenhorst; Aunt Julie with uncle Arthur and their daughters Paula (23) and Emma Irma (11) had an apartment in central Dortmund. Uncle Emil and aunt Eva lived in Dortmund as well, as did uncle Hugo with his wife Josephine and their daughter Herta Netta (31) and son Harri (26). Uncle Isidor and aunt Emilie were in the Oberhausen-Sterkrade area with their five sons and daughters aged between 24 and 31. Further away, in Bremen, was uncle Max with aunt Henriette and their sons Leo (29) and Julius (25). The extended Löwenhardt family was of some local renown, as all nine brothers had been front-line soldiers during World War One. Their mother Pauline had been rewarded by the Emperor in 1917, a rare honour to a Jewish woman.
1933 – 1939: IMPENDING DOOM
Manfred was six years old when in April 1933 Nazi terror against the Jews started. His brother Hans-Georg had celebrated his ninth birthday just a few weeks before. In the course of the following six years the boys witnessed the wilful destruction of their father’s livelihood, his store. It was formally liquidated on 30 September 1938, a week before the gruesome ‘Kristallnacht’ of 9-10 November. On that night the S.A. – the Nazi party’s paramilitary wing – and their helpers attacked Jewish families and businesses, smashed windows and set fire to Hörde’s majestic synagogue. Perhaps their living quarters were not directly attacked, but two days later their father was arrested and taken to the infamous Steinwache police prison near the railway station. Hans-Georg, then fourteen years old, was arrested on 14 November and held overnight in the Steinwache. On the day of his release their uncle Emil was incarcerated in the same dreadful place. Father Siegmund was released on 1 December.
There was good reason to leave. The terror was now unbearable and a direct threat to parents and children. Many relatives had already sought refuge abroad. Cousin Saly, son of uncle Isidor, had left for Holland in 1933. A year later Saly’s brother Julius moved to Palestine.(3) In 1935 cousins Heinz and Werner made their way from Dortmund to Holland as well. They were followed by uncle Adolf and aunt Julia, their parents, in 1936. By early 1939 only few were left in Germany: aunt Julie and her family; and uncle Hugo and his family in Dortmund; uncle Isidor and his wife and daughter Else in Oberhausen; uncle Max with wife and one son in Bremen.(4)
Why Siegmund and his wife decided to stay we will never know. But soon after Kristallnacht they will have heard about the possibility to send children to England. The first Kindertransport (Children’s transport) had arrived in Harwich on 2 December 1938, carrying some two hundred children from a Jewish orphanage in Berlin which had been destroyed in Kristallnacht. In November the British government had agreed to admit unaccompanied children under 17 years to the country and Jewish organisations in Germany were drawing up priority lists of the children most in peril.(5) In the UK several organisations were involved in the rescue operation, such as the (non-denominational) Movement for the Care of Children from Germany. The acuteness of the situation was heightened by the fact that Siegmund and his family were forced to move out of the house in Graudenzerstraße 9 where they had lived since 1930.
Details about the Kindertransport that took the two brothers to safety remain unknown. But from what we know about these transports it seems likely that they travelled from Dortmund to Berlin during one of the last days of February 1939 to be included in a group of Jewish children bound for England. Just before they left their parents and sister, a family picture was taken which they took with them. Nobody looks happy in the picture. Manfred, standing between his brother and sad looking mother, looks at the camera with big, somewhat frightened eyes. This picture was in their sparse luggage when on 3 March 1939 they set foot on English soil. I saw it for the first time in 2011 when Hans-Georg mailed it to me.
In a skype conversation that year Manfred’s brother told me that the escape to London had been ‘arranged’ by a brother of his mother’s who had subsequently left (the UK?, Germany?) for the United States to become a philosophy professor. Arriving in London, the boys were taken into the care of one Mrs. Mary Guy, their ‘guardian’. In talking to me, he was far from loquacious concerning his German-Jewish past, his parents or the UK episode in their lives. So many harrowing questions arise to which we will never have an answer, the main ones, of course, being why only the boys, and why was their sister Ursula not on the transport?
HÖRDE TO KNIGHTSBRIDGE
That 3 March 1939, Mary Guy took ‘her’ two German boys to her home at 31, Trevor Square in Knightsbridge, London. I learned the address only recently upon receipt of Manfred’s case file. It is tempting then to move to Google Maps in order to take a peek, and so I did. 31, Trevor Square in Knightsbridge was a surprise: a very wealthy area indeed. The market value of houses and apartments on the square is currently (2016) in the range of £4-10 million.
Manfred was twelve years old when he arrived in London exile, Hans-Georg fifteen. Arriving from the aggressive turmoil of Dortmund, the brothers will have been stunned by their new environment.(6) They will have had feelings of excitement, mixed with guilt, abandonment and anxiety about their future.
SCHOOL TO WORK: FAILED OPPORTUNITIES
Almost two years passed after Manfred’s arrival in London before an entry was made in the case file. But this first entry of 15 January 1941 is quite extensive and very much sets the tone for the rest of the file. The very first sentence feels like the opening act of a play: ‘Mrs Guy brought boy by appointment to see me.’ The boy is fourteen years old when Mrs Guy takes him to the offices of the Jewish Refugees Committee where they are met by his case officer, Mr. or Mrs. ‘J.E.Mc.C’, the initials at the end of the entry.
At this point, Manfred has been in the Forest School in Snaresbrook for eight months. We can be grateful to case officer J.E.Mc.C. for writing down in his or her second and third sentences the first impression Manfred made: ‘Seemed an ordinary boy of his age. School report describes him as happy and interested in football but without much interest in work’.
The Forest School in Snaresbrook is a private school on the Northeastern outskirts of London some fifteen kilometres from Trafalgar Square. It was founded in 1834. The school is still thriving and its Director of Development was so kind to provide me with details on Manfred’s stay at the school. Its register shows that he enrolled in May 1940 and stayed until July 1941. His residential home during this period was Doctor’s House, a boys’ house like Guy’s House where many of the German pupils were placed. Guy’s House was named after the school’s former – and longest serving – Headmaster Reverend Ralph Courtney Guy and indeed, Mary Guy was his daughter. At the time of Manfred’s arrival in the UK she was 38 years old. Doctor’s House where Manfred stayed, had been established in 1924 in commemoration of another Headmaster Guy: Dr. Frederick Barlow Guy, warden between 1857 and 1866. Gerald C. Miller, the successor to Ralph Guy, admitted over twenty Kindertransport and other refugee children to the school.
It is so far unkown where Hans-Georg and Manfred stayed during their first year in London. Perhaps with Mrs. Guy (and her father?) at 31 Trevor Square, perhaps somewhere else. Sometime during this year the decision was made – apparently without the involvement of the Jewish Refugees Committee – to send Manfred to the Forest School and Hans-Georg to Wandsworth Junior Technical School (J.T.S.) in Southwest London, literally many miles apart from each other. In January 1941 speaking to Manfred’s case officer, Mrs. Guy expresses her feeling that
‘…it is an unnecessary strain paying school fees when he seems to get so little out of it. His brother doing very well at J.T.S. Manfred probably very conscious of inferiority to him particularly as brother adopts very paternal attitude. He might do better at J.T.S. though Mrs G. doubtful if he could pass exam. I think he probably could…’
The case officer has more faith in Freddie, as he or she refers to him, than Mrs Guy – but is disappointed. Mrs Guy is persuaded to let him stay another term in the Forest School and she is told that
‘if he showed signs of settling down, might be worth continuing for matric. If not should try J.T.S. Said I thought in present circumstances Wandsworth best but might be well to keep apart from brother.’
In mid-April a note in the file reports that Freddie has failed his entrance examination to Wandsworth J.T.S. Although three months earlier the case officer was ‘very much [in] doubt if Freddie is ready for a job yet’, now Mrs Guy ‘thinks he might try building or farming’. The next entry is dated December 1941 and notes that Manfred is working on the Manor Farm Byfleet. In May 1941 he was registered with Kelsey Smith, Esq., Holwell Hyde, Hatfield, Hertfordshire but soon after he moved to Byfleet. From the respectable Forest School Freddie had apparently gone straight to a farm to the Southwest of London where in May 1942 he earned a miserable five shillings per week for ‘agriculture and milking’.(7) At age sixteen Freddie dropped out of school. From what we can see in his case file, he continued as a farm hand until his naturalization in 1947.
After the conversation with Mrs Guy in January 1941, the case officer wrote ‘Has prosperous Aunt in U.S. so may be able to continue education there,’ meaning after ‘Snaresbrook’ or, if need be, after the Wandsworth J.T.S. It is the only reference to the boys’ American aunt and we cannot tell whether the boys, Mrs Guy, the school or the Refugees Committee were in touch with her. Perhaps the case officer only learned from Manfred about his aunt – and no one had a way to contact her.
The aunt no doubt was Johanna Loewenhardt (1885-1972), one of the three sisters of their father Siegmund. With husband and two young boys, Johanna had emigrated to Detroit in 1910. Ten years later the family was not exactly ‘prosperous’ but reasonably well to do. With her two grown-up sons Johanna sailed to Germany in 1925 for a vacation and she will no doubt have visited her mother, her brother Siegmund and other relatives in Dortmund. In 1921 Johanna and her husband had facilitated the immigration from Dortmund to the USA of her youngest brother Hermann. It seems unlikely that, had she known of Hans-Georg and Manfred in London, she would not have helped.
STATE OF MIND
After the first weeks of excitement in London, the impact on the young brothers will have been shattering. They were now entirely on their own. Soon Europe was engulfed in war and they were cut off from their relatives. Their cousin Friedel had fled to Northern Ireland and cousin Harri to England – but it is doubtful that the brothers knew this, or that Friedel or Harri knew that they were in London. They had to find their way in a society and culture that was miles apart from what they had been used to. It seems that Hans-Georg was more adept at coping than his younger brother.
Obviously, Freddie had serious problems that impeded his adaptation and education. In late February 1941, before he failed his J.T.S. entrance exam, his case officer suggested to Mrs Guy that he might see a psychologist. She ‘will think it over’. The file gives no indication that the boy had any therapy. The relationship with his elder brother was problematic, even though (or because?) Hans-Georg lived on the other side of London.(8) Being rudely cut off from his family may very well have played a role. One would not be surprised if Freddie at this time experienced feelings of anxiety, loss and guilt. In safety and living with carefree English middle class peers, would he not often have thought of his parents and sister?
From November 1942, when Freddie was sixteen and working as a farm hand, the file contains several references to his religious orientation. Since these telegram style notes are all we have to go by, I will start by presenting them without further comment. The first reference is on 24 November when the case officer quotes Manfred’s reply to the ‘queries’ of one ‘Mrs Daniel’s about Jewish religious instruction’, and quotes him in full:
“I appreciate very much the Committee’s offer to give me religious instruction but at the moment I would prefer to remain as I am. I had had some instruction some time back, but I have long since changed my mind, as I am, or appear to be sort of half way between two religions, and I do not possess any interest at present to take up either.”
In spite of this answer, in July 1943 the file notes that Manfred is ‘attached’ to the correspondence course ‘or classes’ of the West London Synagogue. His interest, however, seems to have been shallow. Less than a month later Manfred drops out from the course.(9)
The next entries on religion are in May of 1946 when a ‘welfare report’ states that Manfred is not interested in religion and ‘does not intend to be baptised’. Rabbi Werner van der Zyl who three years earlier has taken an interest in him, now suggests that rabbi Ignaz Maybaum, another learned refugee from Germany, ‘should keep in contact with this boy.’ In June a letter is sent to rabbi Maybaum, ‘reminding him that he promised to keep in touch with Manfred’.
On 12 December of that year the file reports the receipt of a letter from ‘Dr Maybaum’, summarised as follows: “Manfred now living at 1, Eden Grove Road, Byfleet, Weybridge. He has heard that his parents are alive + does not intend to embrace Christian faith for the time being. He doesn’t know where his parents are but heard from a lady in Switzerland to this effect. Dr. Maybaum will contact this lady by letter in order to obtain further information. Manfred informed Dr Maybaum that his brother, Hans has embraced the Christian faith.”
The last reference on religion comes in January 1947. After Manfred has made enquiries about naturalisation, his position on religious matters is again discussed with him, and “the position regarding his brother – whether he has been baptised or not. Both parents are Jewish + Manfred does not intend to embrace the Christian faith.”
What can we tell from these short notes? First, Manfred’s remark in November 1942 seems to indicate that he has indeed had Jewish religious instruction before he left Germany. It may well have been oriented to his Bar Mitzvah (religious coming of age ceremony) that should have taken place just after his thirteenth birthday in June 1939. Jewish lessons in preparation of a boy’s Bar Mitzvah usually start at least a year in advance. This is probably what Manfred had in mind when he said (or wrote) that he ‘had some instruction some time back’. Hans-Georg had celebrated his Bar Mitzvah in 1937 and Siegmund and his family were member of the Dortmund Jewish community.
A second finding is that two of the most renowned German exile rabbis in London at least for a while tried to support Manfred in his search for identity: Drs. Walter van der Zyl and Ignaz Maybaum. Several wordings in the case file – ‘embracing Christianity’ in particular – indicate that Manfred’s case officers were not Jews but Christians. On the basis of studying more case files than this one, Bernard Wasserstein has found that among the Kindertransport-children proselytization did occasionally occur.(10) In the case of Manfred one is left with the impression that the pressure to convert was not strong and that in the end he made his own decision. Once the war was over he told rabbi Maybaum that he believed his parents to be alive and, for the time being, did not intend to convert. In the last reference, January 1947, now directly to the case officer, the link between his Jewish parents and the intention not to convert, was made again. Manfred was twenty years of age at this time, and working on a farm. He was no longer a child. The fact that he apparently linked the belief with the intention seems to be of some significance.
Moreover, and this is my last finding, by late 1946 his elder brother, then 22, had apparently converted.(11) Although in 1942 he was insecure on the religious issue, four years later Manfred seems to have resisted suggestions or pressure to convert. Perhaps the conversion of Hans-Georg played a role – after all the relation with him does not seem to have been very intense and warm.
AMPUTATION OF THE PAST
The failing relation between elder and younger brother is also exemplified by the issue of the fate of their parents and sister. The case file documents in December 1946 that Manfred has ‘heard from a lady in Switzerland’ that his parents are alive. On 15 January 1947, according to the file, Hans-Georg telephoned or visited Manfred’s case officer with the news that the parents had been deported to Theresienstadt and had not been heard of since. One week later the case officer informs Manfred that he has ‘misunderstood’ information concerning his parents; again a week later he or she writes to Hans-Georg asking him to call the office concerning Manfred.
One is left wondering whether Hans-Georg ever told his brother directly that their parents and sister were dead? Going by the notes in the file – and the file is all I have – it seems a rather messy way to convey a serious message to a troubled young man.
With his parents and sister probably dead, there was no reason left to expect a return to Dortmund. In early January 1947 Manfred had made enquiries with his case officer on whether he could apply for naturalisation. He was told that ‘as his parents were alive, the ROM-scheme (ROM, possibly: Refugee Orphan Marrainage) did not apply to him.’ With the letter in which the case officer wrote Manfred that he had misunderstood information concerning his parents, he enclosed an application form for naturalisation, ‘should he wish to become British’. On 12 March the case officer sent a report on Manfred to the Home Office. Going by a stamp at the bottom of the file, the last entry, Manfred was naturalised to British citizen on 24 April 1947, two months before his 21st birthday.
The brothers severed ties with the past in one more way. They changed their names. Hans-Georg did so on 17 September 1949 and one may assume that Manfred signed his name-change papers on the same day. Hans-Georg became George, Manfred was informally called Freddie – as in his birth announcement. The main problem was the awkward family name Loe(ö)wenhardt. In England it was often written as Lowenhardt without umlaut or e. They now deleted the last six characters – and henceforth their family name was Lowe.(12) It was symbolic of their troubled relation with the past… they wanted nothing more to do with it.
EMIGRATION TO CANADA
I know next to nothing about the last eighteen years of Freddie’s life. In the end he found a job with De Havilland Aircraft Company and they sent him to their Canadian subsidiary in Toronto, probably in the early 1950s. By 1955 he was working here as a factory inspector. Freddie died on 30 August 1965 of a brain tumor, not yet forty years old. From what we know he never married and left no children; it was said that he was not interested in women – but not gay either.
In the two pictures I have of Freddie as a child, he seems a happy boy with a prankish smile. And the Forest School report of early 1941 when he was fourteen presented him as happy, loving football but perhaps a bit lazy. In other words… an ordinary boy. In the only picture I have of him with his brother as young men, he is wearing a dark striped suit and checkered tie and he smiles… though his eyes look serious and inquisitive.
Who was this man? He had suffered terrible losses and he had a difficult adolescence. He failed in school but he was not too lazy to earn his living. He worked the land and milked the cows. He deleted his past – or only tried to do so, in vain. Perhaps after the war he did work his way up. Perhaps in Canada he was happy.
With special thanks to Susannah Coates, London; Rolf Fischer, Dortmund; Elise Friedmann, Amsterdam; Marthie du Toit Lowe, Johannesburg; and Bernard Wasserstein, Amsterdam.
LITERATURE & SOURCES
Landesarchiv NRW, Münster, Germany
Stadtarchiv Dortmund, Germany
World Jewish Relief archive, London UK
Forest School archives, Snaresbrook, UK
Phyllis Lassner, ‘Children’s Exodus: A History of the Kindertransport’, review of Vera Fast, Children’s Exodus, London 2011. In Reviews in History @ history.ac.uk/reviews
Bernard Wasserstein, “The Tyranny of Conventional Assumption. The Anglo-Jewish Community and the Jewish Refugee Issue in Britain 1939-1945”, paper delivered at the Conference on Jewish Refugees and Refugee Work, 1933-1993, London 14 March 1993.
Information received from Magdalena Strugholz (email 3 February 2011), George Lowe, Johannesburg South Africa (skype conversation, 12 April 2011), Marthie de Toit – Lowe (messenger, 6 July 2016), Rolf Fischer, email 12 July 2016)
- Unfortunately, the case file of Hans-Georg is missing. [↩]
- On German Jews during this period read Amos Elon, The Pity of It All. A History of Jews in Germany, 1743-1933. New York, Metropolitan Books, 2002. [↩]
- On the fate of Julius Löwenhardt, read ‘Of four Juliuses’ [↩]
- Harri, the 32 years old son of Hugo and Josephine, fled to England on 19 August 1939. [↩]
- In practice the age limit was interpreted generously so as to include seventeen-year-olds. [↩]
- They were most likely not aware of the resemblance to the situation of their father Siegmund at more or less the same age. In January 1899 at age nine, Siegmund had been sent from his home town of Hemer to the Jewish orphanage of Rhineland and Westfalia in Paderborn. He was accompanied by his elder brother Julius, then almost twelve. Until after he had turned fourteen, Siegmund stayed in the orphanage – never to return to his parental home. When on the last day of 1903 he left the orphanage, the parental home no longer existed. [↩]
- The average wage in England in 1942 was six Pounds Sterling per week so Freddie earned four per cent of the average wage. To partly compensate, he will have had access to free lodging and meals and will not have paid taxes. [↩]
- From 1942 Hans-Georg did a part-time course in mechanical engineering at Guildford Technical College and from 1945 a follow-up course in the same discipline at the Borough Polytechnic in Southwark, London. On 12 November 1947 he received the National Certificate of Mechanical Engineering. Regierung Arnsberg, Wiedergutmachungen, file 618434. [↩]
- The case file notes that this information came from ‘Dr Van der Zyl’ – the German rabbi Werner van der Zyl (1902-1984) who had been born in Schwerte not far from Manfred’s birthplace and who had also fled to England in 1939. [↩]
- Bernard Wasserstein, “The Tyranny of Conventional Assumption. The Anglo-Jewish Community and the Jewish Refugee Issue in Britain 1939-1945”, paper delivered at the Conference on Jewish Refugees and Refugee Work, 1933-1993, London 14 March 1993. [↩]
- In a skype conversation George spontaneously told me that he had become a Christian, not mentioning when. [↩]
- Harri Löwenhardt changed his family name in England to Loyd. [↩]