A woman who fled Nazi Germany as a four-year-old, travelling through Norway and Sweden with an identification tag around her neck, has finally discovered her father’s grave.
Two years before Leisel Meier (now Carter) left Hildesheim, near Hanover, her father David — a self-employed master butcher — had been brutally beaten by Nazis. After being fostered by a Leeds family, the young refugee learned that Mr Meier was a Holocaust victim.
She has been searching for her father’s grave for close on 60 years. Her mother — who remarried and lived in London after the war — would not speak about it. The breakthrough came via the Jewish communities’ association in Lower Saxony and led to an invitation from the mayor’s office in Hildesheim to visit her birthplace.
Mrs Carter was accompanied by her daughters Janet and Helen and two granddaughters. The experience had been “very emotional and we cried. But we were able to pick up further facts about him. It was like completing a great jigsaw puzzle,” she said.
For example, when Mr Meier had been set upon, he managed to run into a nearby bank but refused to make his exit by the rear entrance. “I have been a valued customer for many years,” he told the manager. “I am German and will leave by the front door.”
Three days later, he was marched to a local Gestapo hearing and put on a charge of affray — and soon afterwards taken to Buchenwald, where he died. “The ultimate injustice was that his body was cremated and my mother had to pay to repatriate his ashes for burial,” Mrs Carter explained. The visit to Hildesheim had also been an opportunity to thank non-Jewish students who maintain Mr Meier’s grave among others.
Returning to the street where she was born and the location of her father’s shop made her feel “uneasy, frightened and traumatised.
“I realised Hildesheim was not my home any more and suddenly longed to be back in Leeds.”
Mrs Carter gives talks about her experiences and feels it is important to keep the memory of the Shoah alive.
“We must encourage young people to accept each other as equals rather than make judgments based on race, religion or colour.”