Beni Baltfried Jaffé

Beni Baltfried 'Friedel' Jaffé

Celle – London
1917 – 1990
Origin: Germany

Friedel’s Early Life

Beni Baltfried Jaffé, known as Friedel, was born on 21 May 1917 near Hanover. He was the sixth of seven children of Abraham and Eva Jaffé. For six years, Friedel worked in the Berlin headquarters of the German-Jewish firm Adler and Oppenheimer, one of the largest shoe leather tanners in Europe.

By the mid-1930s, life in Germany was becoming increasingly difficult for Jewish families like the Jaffés and, one by one, the family managed to escape. Friedel was the last of the siblings to flee and arrived in England in March 1939, thanks in part to the efforts of the German Jewish Aid Committee. His parents would follow one week later, although the family would never be together again.

Friedel’s Journey

On arriving in London, Friedel’s immigrant status meant he wasn’t allowed to work. Eventually, he could take a position as a commercial clerk but, on 4 October 1939, he received a letter summonsing him to an aliens tribunal. Like most refugees, Friedel was exempted from internment.

The week after receiving notification of his exemption, Friedel wrote to the Minister of Labour to find out if and how he could join the British army. He was eventually told he was not eligible to serve.

During the 1930s, the Jewish owners of Adler and Oppenheimer, the firm Friedel had worked for in Berlin, had sought to escape Germany by moving their scientists and managers to a small factory in Littleborough, near Rochdale. They gave this operation a new identity – the Lancashire Tanning Company, or LANCTAN.

LANCTAN had given some support to Friedel while he was in London, then eventually offered him work. Friedel moved north.

Friedel’s Internment

Friedel was working at LANCTAN when war broke out and the government’s internment policy changed. Police arrived and Friedel and another worker were taken away, eventually ending up a few miles away at Warth Mills.

Friedel was horrified by the living conditions. He would later talk of the men having their razor blades confiscated and being made to buy new ones (the commanding officer served 18 months for embezzlement). In protest, Friedel grew a beard.

Friedel was released from internment in 1942, when he was finally allowed to enlist with the Pioneer Corps. Early in his war service, Friedel was stationed in the Forest of Dean. It was here that he met Mavis Fletcher. They married in 1943.

Shortly after, Friedel was sent to Singapore, Malaya and India, before being demobbed in 1946.

Life After the War

Friedel returned to work for LANCTAN and became a British citizen on 15 October 1946. He and Mavis had a daughter, Deborah, and built their family home in Bamford.

Friedel died in London in 1990, but left behind a huge – and vital – collection of letters, documents and photographs.

Watch a short film with Beni Jaffé's daughter, Deborah

Thanks to Deborah and the Jaffé family for providing biographical information and archive images. All rights reserved by the Estate of BB Jaffé.

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