Refugee British war hero finally receives Jewish grave

Throughout the 1930s Kurt Goldschlager swam so well that he was part of the Austrian national team. In the mid-1940s he was riding a bicycle – not for Austria, but for the British Army, under enemy fire. He had traded the lanes of the swimming pool for the traces of Nazi territory, the sound of cheers and applause for the sound of gunshots and explosions.

In the UK, Goldschlager – like many other European Jews fighting for the Allies in Central Europe – had changed its name to something English sounding. So, as he dodged bullets and pedaled to deliver vital messages, he did so as 13801160 Private Kenneth Edward Clarke.

When he died in 1977, shortly after being severely assaulted in Manchester, he was without a family and was buried like a poor man in the Roman Catholic section of Manchester’s sprawling south cemetery. His bravery during the war, perhaps spurred by his mother’s murder at the hands of the Nazis, which had led him to be mentioned in dispatches, was long forgotten by then.

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Goldschlager’s subsequent life and death would likely have gone unnoticed had his niece in San Diego not contacted Jewish military researchers in the UK to alert them. It quickly became clear that no one knew Goldschlager was Jewish when he died.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) was alerted, funding was sought and found, and a new gravestone was made, one adorned with a Star of David, recording how Goldschlager was a commando who fought in the 3rd Troop (Jewish Troop) during World War II, and had been buried 44 years previously with a Catholic burial.

Courageous in War: Kurt Theodor Goldschlager

This month, in what promises to be a very moving ceremony, the Goldschlager Stone will be rededicated in Manchester at an event attended by members of the city’s Jewish community and hosted by the branch president of AJEX Manchester, Joe Flacks.

Born in Vienna in 1912, Goldschlager was one of four brothers, one of whom later lived in Chicago as Gordon. Their father, Julius, was an architect who died of natural causes in 1940. Her mother, Irene, was deported to Auschwitz, where she was murdered in 1942.

Years earlier, in his twenties, the sportsman Goldschlager had been part of the Austrian national swimming and water polo teams, but was forced to flee to the United Kingdom in June 1939.

He worked for a Jewish charity in London before joining the British Army’s Pioneer Corp, in which he served from 1940 to 1943.

He later volunteered twice for No 10 International Commando, where he served as an interpreter and frontline interrogator for the last four months of the war, with the military using his extensive language skills.

Goldschlager’s new gravestone in Manchester

Goldschlager’s bravery was recorded after fighting near Osnabruck in northwestern Germany where he had “cycled under heavy fire and in sight of the enemy” to bring in a medical team ambush and casualties.
commando unit.

“It saved many lives,” says British Jewish military researcher Martin Sugarman, who worked with the CWGC to make the correction.

“He arranged for the artillery to cover fire for the troops as they escaped. He then entered Osnabruck before his troop and persuaded an entire company of heavily armed Hungarian Nazis to surrender, an act that was apparently filmed and saved many more lives.

After the war Goldschlager returned to the UK and ran a ladies’ sewing business in Harrow Road, London, but this failed and he moved to Manchester, never getting married. Until an American relative came into contact, no one knew he was Jewish.

An American philanthropist, Jerry Klinger of the American Jewish Society for Historical Preservation, has heard of the story.

The grave in the Catholic section of the cemetery
(© Mike Poloway.)

Klinger paid to have both a gravestone with Goldschlager’s name placed on his unmarked grave, and a larger gravestone placed in the nearby Jewish cemetery. “It explains who Kurt was and how the location of his once-unknown grave can now be found,” Sugarman said.

“He is a Jewish war hero, whose burial place was almost lost. He is remembered now and Kaddish will be spoken for him every year by the Jewish community in Manchester.

Upon seeing the stone for the first time, his niece Tracy Fish described the moment as “very moving”. She said, “I’m setting here crying. I am a little speechless.

Fish added, “It never occurred to me that the stone would be so personalized and so beautiful. I expected a simple plaque with all the names of the buried men who served in the No. 10 Commandos.

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