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Hello

Ruby, my advice to you is:  “Be a good person, be honest, make people happy, get through the tough times and be   grateful for the good.”

Gerald's Story

Gerald is a truly wonderful 95 year old man, he’s interested and interesting, seeing the good in everyone and every situation. A pure inspiration. 

 

He was born in Nuremberg, Germany, which I had heard of because of the big Nazi trials that took place there. His early childhood sounded comfortable, idyllic even, with his father owning a big factory in Saxe Coburg where the German royal family lived, making baskets for Marks and Spencer's in London.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, his father’s secretary told him they were waiting to take him to the first German concentration camp in Dachau. Luckily and wisely, understanding that life is more important than wealth, his father decided they should leave everything and move to London. He warned the rest of the family who, apart from a few exceptions, all fled to Spain, America and the UK. 

 

Gerald’s family narrowly escaped a more tragic end during those critical days. When his mother called to book tickets to fly to London from Nuremberg, the Gestapo called to say they’d listened to her conversation and if the family tried to leave they would arrest them. The family therefore decided to leave by train, and again, narrowly missed a horrific fate when a porter at Koln tipped them off and ensured they stayed on a particular train to avoid being arrested. 

 

Now in London, Gerald’s family stayed in a boarding house. His father’s Spanish that he’d learnt whilst previously traveling for business in Havana, came into valuable use, enabling him to get to know the Spanish ambassador who also happened to be staying there. Another important piece of advice I picked up from Gerald...You accumulate things in life and don’t know when you might use them. “Seek knowledge”, he told me - you never know when and how you might use it.

 

When the war broke out in 1939, Gerald was evacuated to a farm in Somerset which had a bathtub, but no running water. Later he transferred to Minehead. He reminisced about the dog walks, swimming in the sea every day and the kind lady that adopted him. Whilst he told me they were some of the best years of his life, I couldn’t help thinking how upset I would feel if I was told to go and stay with someone in the countryside away from my friends and family for years.
 

Gerald felt really welcome as a Jew in the UK, which was lovely to hear. He attended Hampstead Synagogue every week and was honoured to carry the Torah around seven times for the inauguration of the Children’s Synagogue. He had a humorous memory from his own Bar Mitzvah when the chazan said had he known Gerald was so indecently dressed, he would not have called him up. Gerald was wearing a mere yarmulke rather than a top hat or bowler hat which people wore at the time!  When his brother was Bar Mitzvah at Hampstead (the first Jewish German boy to have that privilege), his mother purchased a bowler hat at Selfridges and took it back the following Monday, not being able to afford to keep it!

Both the highlight and the greatest sadness of my conversation with Gerald was the conversation we had about his wife. He met her at a Jewish tennis club at the age of 28, they enjoyed a full and happy family life with their three children, and were celebrating their 67th anniversary of marriage on the day Gerald and I spoke.  Though his wife is still alive, she is unable to walk and Gerald is her full time carer, tending to her seven days a week and preparing all the meals. His devotion towards his wife was overwhelming and I found myself deeply moved by Gerald’s innate wisdom, kindness and love. 

Gerald’s final observation was “Help others, try to bring a smile to their face, look on the positive side and accept what life is''. I will remember our conversation forever.

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