The remarkable story of a woman who fled Nazi Germany as a child and lost all her family in the war before settling down in Yorkshire has emerged on Holocaust Memorial Day.
Brave Leisel Carter’s journey across Europe to escape Nazism began when she was only four years old after her father died in a concentration camp and her mother moved away.
The young Jewish girl eventually made it to England and was placed with a foster family in Leeds – the city she now calls home.
Leisel, who has five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, counts herself “extremely lucky” to have escaped Germany when she did just before war broke out.
Her incredible story has emerged on Holocaust Memorial Day, a national day of commemoration dedicated to the remembrance of those who suffered in the Holocaust.
Leisel, 85, said: “I think it’s vital we continue to talk about the Holocaust because what happened to Jewish people then is still happening in other countries today.
“People are being killed not only because of their race but because of their religion.
“You see on the news people being murdered and driven out of their homes, just like what happened in Nazi Germany.
“We must use this opportunity and days like this to learn from the past, I hope that’s what we can get from today.”
Leisel was born Leisel Meier in Hildesheim, Germany, in 1935.
Her father, who she never knew, was beaten in the streets by the Nazis and died in a concentration camp when she was only 18 months old.
Leisel’s mother travelled to England on a domestic visa alone due to visa restrictions, leaving her daughter alone in Germany, either in a children’s home or with friends.
Her mother’s employers worked tirelessly to find a way to get Leisel to England and safety and she eventually left Germany in 1939 just before war broke out.
She travelled to Norway via Sweden on a Nansen passport, which was a travel document issued to stateless refugees.
In Norway, Leisel lived with a family called the Alfsens, who she has happy memories of spending one Christmas with.
A short time later the youngster was reunited with her mother in England, although they couldn’t live together because of her mum’s work.
Leisel lived with three foster families before settling down with parents Jack and Mary Wynne in Leeds.
She stayed in touch with her mother and they spent school holidays together, but they never lived together again.
Leisel lived with the Wynnes until she married her husband Terry, with whom she had three children before his death 15 years ago.
Although Leisel’s story has a happy ending she lost most of her family in the Holocaust.
She knows very little about her grandparents and other family members but did learn some of her cousins were killed in Auschwitz.
An aunt and uncle committed suicide on the train taking them to Riga, Leisel said.
The retired secretary added: “I lost most of my family in the Holocaust and was brought up by people who weren’t my parents.
“Despite that, I was very lucky to come here and end up with a lovely couple.
“It wasn’t until I met Terry and had children that I had a real family of my own. I’m really pleased I came to England.
“I’m definitely a Yorkshirewoman now.”
Over the decades Leisel has told her to story to various groups and, in her words, “anyone who would listen”.
She would usually be in London for the Holocaust Memorial Day commemorations but will be staying at home today due to the lockdown.