Harold and Eva Gordon were married in the Leicester synagogue in 1945, the first wedding in the Synagogue after the end of the Second World War. Both came from Berlin, leaving in 1938 /1939 although their parents were unable to get out and perished in Auschwitz.
Escaping Germany and finding love
Eva would tell a story that she left Berlin on 1st January 1939 and only managed to get out because some guards were drunk after celebrating the New Year. When she arrived in England she worked for a short time as a domestic in Manchester before moving to York. She was bombed out of her accommodation there on her 21st birthday and moved to London where she met Harold at a Refugee tea dance. They knew each other from Berlin. Another of my mother’s stories was her amazement at the number of toilets she saw advertised in London. It took her a while to realise that the word To – Let was nothing to do with toilets!
Change of name
Harold had been interned in the Isle of Man when he first arrived in England and then joined the Army. He was advised to change his name as it seemed unwise to be going into the Army with a German name. He was given little time to choose a new name. He wanted to keep his initials so he went into a phone box looked up the G’s and when he came to the first H. G. decided that Heinz Gelb would become Harold Gordon. Harold was in the Royal Engineers and was involved in the D Day landing and then worked as an interpreter for the Army.
Settling in Leicester
They decided to settle in Leicester where one of Eva’s uncles was a doctor, Dr Felix Rosenthal, and who had arrived from Germany some years before. They found a flat where their first son was born but later moved to a house in Gwendolen Road and then Woodbank Road in Knighton. After the war Harold was an engineer and worked at Brush in Loughborough and Partridge Wilson for many years. Eva also worked and raised two children, Peter who became a doctor and Michael who was a professor in food science.
Eva had an older sister who had also managed to get out of Germany and who settled in Chile, South America for some years before moving to New York with her husband and daughter. It brought great joy to Eva to be reunited many years after the war ended and that was the start of regular trips to New York and then Boston.
They did return to Germany to visit Berlin on a couple of occasions taking their children with them. Eva’s parents are remembered with a brass plate on a Stolperstein on the pavement outside the family apartment block.
Stolpersteine, which means stumbling stones, were created by the artist, Gunter Demnig. In Berlin the Stolpersteine have existed since 1996. Each stone has a brass plate with information about people persecuted by the Nazis from 1936 to 1945 and is laid outside the last voluntarily chosen places of residence of the victims of the Nazis.
Both Harold and Eva were active members of the Leicester Hebrew Congregation. Harold was one of the founder members of the Shalom Club where he was one of main drivers and food shopper. He was always there to help. Eva was an active member of WIZO. They had many friends in the Leicester community, their closest ones were other refugee families.
They were a loving couple who worked hard to provide for their family and give them the education and prospects they never had. They never discussed their personal difficulties in front of their children and only much later did they relate their life stories which are now recorded.