Heinz Bernard

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Heinz Bernard
Heinz 1970.jpg
Born Heinz Messinger
(1923-12-22)22 December 1923
Nuremberg, Germany
Died 18 December 1994(1994-12-18) (aged 70)
London, UK
Resting place Ashes are at Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan
Other names Heinz Bernhard Löwenstein
Occupation Actor, director, producer
Spouse(s) Nettie Lowenstein
Children 3

Heinz Bernhard Löwenstein, known as Heinz Bernard (born 22 December 1923 – died 18 December 1994) was a British actor and director and theatre manager. Of Polish Jewish and German Jewish descent, he lived and worked in Israel from 1971-81. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA), graduating in 1951.

After graduation, he worked in a group of travelling players throughout Britain, performing every night in different towns and villages. He went on to become the manager of the famous leftist Unity Theatre, London. As manager of the Unity Theatre he staged the first professional British production of a Brecht play, The Visions of Simone Machard. Lionel Bart, who later gained fame as the author of the musical Oliver!, designed the poster. Bernard also acted and directed in the travelling Century Theatre and taught at RADA, where he was director of admissions.

Heinz's surname at birth was Messinger. He was adopted as a baby by a family called Löwenstein. After leaving RADA he worked under the professional name Harry Bernard, later becoming Heinz Bernard.

Childhood[edit]

Heinz Messinger grew up in a Jewish family in Nuremberg in Nazi Germany. He was adopted by the Lowenstein family after his biological father died of tuberculosis. His biological father was the hazzan of the city's Orthodox synagogue. As was usual at the time, he was not told by his parents that he was adopted. In March 1932, when Heinz was nine years old, his adoptive father Max Lowenstein, committed suicide following the collapse of his business. In 1933 the Nazis came to power in Germany and began persecuting the Jews. Jews were banned from state schools and only one Jewish school, the Israelitische Realschule, in neighbouring Fürth, was allowed to operate where Heinz attended.[1]

In November 1935, the Nuremberg Laws deprived Heinz and his family of their German citizenship. In December 1936 Heinz had had his bar mitzvah in the main Orthodox synagogue of Nuremberg where his biological father had been the hazzan.[citation needed] In August 1938 Julius Streicher, editor of Der Stürmer, ordered the large Nuremberg Reform Synagogue torn down. In October 1938, during Kristallnacht, the synagogue where Heinz had had his bar mitzvah was burnt down along with most of Germany's synagogues. He hid with relatives in Frankfurt.[citation needed]

In August 1938 Poland issued an order depriving Polish Jews residing outside of Poland of their citizenship. Although Heinz was born in Germany and adopted by native German Jews, his real father had emigrated from Poland. In return, Germany began expelling Jews of Polish origin to Poland. The Poles refused to admit them and some 17,000 Jews were trapped between the two countries.[2] At some point the Germans began tracing adopted children of Polish emigrants and in 1939 began proceedings to expel Heinz.[citation needed]

Jews in Nazi Germany were eligible for one-way passports only, to leave the country; other countries would not admit them due to this. Heinz was ineligible even for this kind of passport due to his Polish origins. He was also ineligible for a Polish passport. His mother eventually procured a forged Polish passport for him. In July 1939 the MP Josiah Wedgwood, who dedicated his life to saving Jews, asked a parliamentary question directed at the Home Secretary:

"Colonel Wedgwood asked the Home Secretary whether he will authorise a visa to Frau Betty Loewenstein, [sic] and her son, Heinz, Nurenberg, guarantee and application for whom was made by Walter Block, Alsager, Stoke-on-Trent, on 10th May, in view of the fact that the boy, aged 16 years, is under expulsion orders for 10th July?"[3]

As a result of this question Heinz and his mother, Betty (maiden name Ehrlich), caught the last Trans-Siberian train before the Nazi invasion of Russia. were granted transit visas to pass through England and join his uncles who had migrated to the United States. On 28 August 1939, Bernard was sent to England by plane by his mother, who meant to join him a few days later. On the day she planned to leave Germany, war broke out trapping her on the continent. In mid-1940, she received a U.S. visa and took the Trans-Siberian Railway, travelling through Japanese-occupied China to Japan and sailing from there to Seattle. From Seattle she took a bus to Pennsylvania.[4]

Heinz remained trapped in England and learned English by sitting in cinemas watching movies. He eventually joined a home for Jewish orphans run by exiles from the German Communist Party where he organized weekly plays. Heinz worked in a variety of low-paid jobs, including as a rabbit skinner and a waiter, saving enough money to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London.[5]

After the war, his mother informed him that he was adopted. A biological brother and sister had reached Palestine before the war and now made contact with him. Heinz's brother was a co-founder of Kibbutz Ramat Yochanan.[citation needed] Heinz went on to run a legendary Communist Party-affiliated theatre in London (Unity Theatre) and staged the first productions of Brecht in the English language. Heinz left the Communist Party in the fifties due to Stalin's antisemitism and the invasion of Hungary.[citation needed]

In the early 1960s, Heinz was director of a travelling theatre in the Lake District in Cumbria called the Century Theatre. At the time television was rare and the travelling theatre provided a major form of local entertainment. In the late 1960s he played the role of the Rabbi in the West End production of Fiddler on the Roof (at Her Majesty's Theatre).[5]

After 10 years in Israel, Heinz returned to England where he had to restart his career. He continued to work until his death of a rare blood disease in 1994. He died four days before his 71st birthday.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steven Karras. The Enemy I Knew: German Jews in the Allied Military in World War II, p. 117; see also Niall Ferguson's Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist
  2. ^ "Persecuted, murdered, forgotten - Jews from Poland in Nuremberg" (PDF). Rijo.homepage.t-online.de. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  3. ^ "REFUGEES". Hansard.millbanksystems.com. 6 July 1939. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  4. ^ "Telaviv1: The Journey of a Lifetime: my grandmother's escape on the Trans-Siberian railway". Jonathanlowenstein.blogspot.com. 26 April 2010. Retrieved 26 November 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Helena Kaut-Howson. "OBITUARIES: Heinz Bernard". The Independent. Retrieved 2016-12-27. 
  6. ^ Obituary, Independent.co.uk; accessed 26 November 2016.

External links[edit]

Youtube clips[edit]

  • Heinz alongside Israeli star Uri Zohar in 1977 Israeli movie Video on YouTube
  • As Mr Cohen in the Israeli cult English teaching TV series written by his wife Nettie: Video on YouTube