Jewish lawyer who spied for Britain after fleeing the Nazis honoured

Dr Kurt Erich Glauber has been honoured with a memorial stone at Ipswich Old Cemetery


He fled the Nazis to safety in Suffolk, only to go back into danger by smuggling himself into Austria undercover to spy for the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a forerunner of MI6.

Now, Dr Kurt Erich Glauber, a true Jewish hero, has been honoured with a memorial stone at Ipswich Old Cemetery.

Glauber, a lawyer, settled in Ipswich, Suffolk, in 1938, escaping Vienna soon after the Nazis annexed Austria and stripped Jews of their rights.

In 1943, Glauber volunteered to join the SOE to work as a secret agent. But early in 1945, aged 42, he was betrayed and taken to Mauthausen concentration camp where he was brutally tortured and murdered. His body was never found.

Now, Glauber’s nephew, Tony Japhet, has shed light on the war hero’s daring missions as a secret agent after he ventured back to the country from which he fled.

Speaking to the JC after the ceremony in Ipswich, which was attended by the Austrian ambassador, Bernhard Wrabetz, and led by Rabbi Geoffrey Hyman under the auspices of the Jewish Military Association (AJEX), Japhet, 84, said: “It was very emotional…

"They played the Last Post and the National Anthem.”

Glauber had been the eldest of three siblings; his younger brother, Gerhard, escaped to the British Mandate in Palestine before the war, and his younger sister, Lucile — Japhet’s mother — travelled to London in 1937.

A year later, Glauber came to the UK with his mother. While she settled in London, Glauber went to live in Ipswich.

Finding lodgings with the Barber family at 277 Norwich Road, which is now a vape shop, Glauber was unable to practise as a lawyer in the UK despite having a doctorate in law from the University of Vienna. Instead, he found a trainee position at the local Tower Mill Steam Laundry.

Rachel Field, a local researcher who carried out extensive research into Glauber’s life, which she shared with the Ipswich War Memorial project, said: “When he arrived in Ipswich, the resident Jewish community was tiny and it is unclear whether any of the resident Jewish refugees then sheltering in the town knew or associated with each other.”

What is known is that Glauber joined the British Army in 1941, initially the Pioneer Corps, a non-fighting unit . When in 1943 the government changed the law to allow refugees to join fighting units, “Kurt promptly did so”, according to Field.

“The official records show that he joined the Royal Artillery. As it turned out, this proved to be a cover story, for, in reality, Glauber was recruited by [the SOE] to work as a secret agent.”

His “deadly secret mission” was to investigate and report on factories where Nazis were believed to be developing nuclear weapons.

With his blond hair and blue eyes, Glauber “didn’t look typically Jewish”, said Japhet. “He had friends and people he could trust [in Vienna].”

On September 1, 1944, Glauber was parachuted in by the British. He was hidden by non-Jewish sisters Daniza and Rada Illistch in their apartment. Daniza was a celebrated opera singer and, it was later discovered, actively anti-Nazi.

According to Japhet, the Allied secret agents would meet every Friday night at another woman’s flat, but one day, in February 1945, they arrived to find the Gestapo, who arrested them all.

“We were told that [the woman who owned the flat] was a double agent, but if she had been, the agents would have been arrested much sooner. I believe she may have been turned by the Nazis,” Japhet said. The woman was later found hanged in her apartment.

Glauber refused to co-operate with his interrogators or to send false information back to England, so, as his nephew discovered only this year, he was sent to Mauthausen concentration camp: “What they did to those prisoners and the way they tortured and killed them was terrible. As Kurt was both a Jew and a spy, what they could have done to him doesn’t bear thinking about.”

Japhet, who lives in Maida Vale, west London, was six when his uncle’s died.

One of his strongest memories of Glauber involved a trip to London Zoo, aged five: “My mother told me many years later that after we had been all the way round [the zoo], I announced that I would like to go round again. We were very late home for lunch. My uncle got a serious ticking off.”

The significance of the memorial stone (beneath), which was funded by the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation, should not be underestimated: “It is important that people know what was done to Kurt because he was a Jew and a spy,” Japhet said.

After the war, Glauber was posthumously awarded the King’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.

He never married or had children, making Japhet and his own two children Glauber’s only surviving relatives. Japhet said: “I feel very proud of him, of his bravery and that he sacrificed his life for his adopted country.”

AJEX national chair, Dan Fox said: “Jewish men and women like Kurt showed courage beyond belief, dropping themselves back into the jaws of Nazism.

Their role was crucial in the eventual allied victory. This memorial is yet another opportunity for us to admire, remember and learn from such bravery, ingenuity and selflessness."

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