Chef who escaped the Nazis celebrates his centenary

Henry Wuga came to the UK on the Kinderstransport


Henery Wuga is turning 100 (Photo: Henry Wuga)

A Scotsman who escaped the Nazis on the Kinderstransport, going on to become a well-known chef in top restaurants, is celebrating his centenery on Friday.

Henry Wuga MBE, who is now a prominent Holocaust educator, was born in Nuremberg in Germany. Forced to leave school at the age of 14 following the implementation of the Nuremberg racial laws, on the advice of his mother, he “learnt a trade" and began an apprenticeship as a commis chef in a kosher hotel in Baden-Baden.

After six months of a 12-month apprenticeship, he decided to go home on 8 November, 1938, the day before the infamous nation-wide pogrom that became known as Kristallnacht.

Soon after, he was able to escape the country via the Kindertransport to Scotland, where he was subsequently arrested and interned for 10 months on the Isle of Man for “corresponding with the enemy”, because he had been sending letters to his mother via uncles in Paris and Brussels, a serious offence in wartime.

In 1941, he returned to Glasgow and worked in many esteemed restaurants and hotels as a chef de partie. He married fellow Kindertransportee, Ingrid Wolff, and became active in German and Austrian refugee clubs before becoming a British citizen.

From 1945 to 1953, Henry progressed to become chef de cuisine at the Grand Central Hotel in Glasgow and furthered his culinary studies in Lyon, France. He was joined in Scotland by his mother in 1947, who survived the war after going into hiding in the countryside near Nuremberg.

In 1960, Henry and Ingrid created a very successful catering company in Glasgow for weddings, barmitzvahs and other events, which they continued until 1989, becoming very well known in the process.

Henry’s passions go well beyond just food (and whisky) though, and he has been deeply involved in a number of charities over the years. He said he was particularly proud of being honoured by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1999 with a British Empire Medal for his services to sport for disabled people, in recognition of over 20 years volunteering as a ski bob instructor for the British Limbless Ex-Service Men’s Association (Blesma).

He volunteered at the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice in Glasgow for over 20 years, and, working with the Holocaust Education Trust and Anne Frank Trust for over a quarter of a century, he and his wife spoke to thousands of school students about their escape from Hitler’s Germany and finding a happy home in Glasgow. Henry’s “dear wife” passed away three years ago at the age of 96.

A lover of fine music, Henry has been to the vast majority of the annual Edinburgh International Festivals, missing only a few years since it began in 1947. He has even kept the tickets for the renowned music event. He said: “The amount of music is incredible, and the kind of people that perform are known worldwide. Every year, the world comes to Edinburgh, and it’s an absolute delight.”

Becoming a centenarian on Friday, the same year as the Kindertransport’s 85th anniversary, Henry will celebrate with a modest gathering on the day, before a larger party on Saturday, surrounded by his four grandsons and three great-grandsons, who are travelling up from Cardiff, Sheffield and London. “I’m a very lucky fellow,” said Henry.

A telegram addressed to Henry will be presented by His Majesty the King’s representative, Deputy Lieutenant Philip Rodney, who chairs the Scottish Jewish Heritage Centre. The local councillor, provost Mary Montague, will also attend.

In terms of presents, Henry said: “What can you give to someone on their 100th birthday? People may like to instead contribute to World Jewish Relief, the Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice, or Blesma.”

Michael Newman, CEO of the Association of Jewish Refugees, of which Henry is a “much-loved” member, said: “On behalf of us all at the AJR we wish Henry Wuga a hearty mazel tov and huge congratulations on the occasion of his 100th birthday.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive