Rudolf Seligsohn

Serjeant, Pioneer Corps
Service no: 13801071
Died 26 Apr 1943
Buried Willesden Liberal Jewish Cemetery, United Kingdom
Age 33

Rudolf was born on 31 December 1909 in Berlin, Germany to Albert and Lisbeth nee Eger and he was the second of four boys. Their mother died in 1930 in Berlin and at the outbreak of the Pogroms Albert and his three other sons Robert, Wilhelm and Franz left Germany for Brazil and the United States.

In 1928, Rudolph began two courses of study: classical philology at Berlin‘s Friedrich Wilhelm University, and rabbinical training at the College for the Science of Judaism. In 1934 he earned both his doctorate and his rabbinical ordination. He was then appointed Rabbi to the Bonn community, and in 1935 he married Gerda Kroner. Alongside his rabbinical duties, he taught Latin, history, and geography at the Jawne School in Cologne—the Rhineland‘s only Jewish high school. In response to the November 1938 Pogroms, the Jawne management initiated steps to relocate the school to England. On 17 January 1939, Rudolf organised the first of four transports, accompanying thirty of the school‘s children to freedom. Once in London, he and his wife Gerda ran the Jawne Hostel where the children lived.

In early 1940, he enlisted into the Pioneer Corps, and one year later, the American Jewish Congregation in New York offered him a position as a Rabbi, but the war prevented him from accepting it. He remained in England and was promoted to Corporal, then Serjeant. On 1 September 1942 their only child Elizabeth was born and the family then moved to Stratford-upon-Avon. Eight months after Elizabeth’s birth Rudolf fell ill with meningitis and died at the Emergency Hospital in Stratford.

His eulogy was given by Max Eschelbacher, a long-serving Düsseldorf rabbi who had fled to Britain in late January 1939. ‘Here lies the coffin, draped with the Union Jack; his comrades, British soldiers, stand honour guard and will carry him to his grave. How alien this picture is, yet how familiar. A refugee is accompanied to his final resting place by us, who share his destiny. Here we see before us the harrowing destiny of Jews in our time, which is also the eternal Jewish destiny.’

Rudolf, Gerda & Elizabeth. Courtesy of Leo Baeck Institute
Rudolf with his teacher Leo Baeck. Courtesy Leo Baeck Institute