Joachim Auerbach obituary

My friend Joachim Auerbach, who has died aged 93, was a refugee from Nazi Germany who built a full life from difficult circumstances. He continued to Morris dance well into his 80s and loved hill-walking.

Joachim was born to Felix Auerbach, a lawyer, and his wife, Lisbeth (nee Adler) in Berlin. Theirs was an educated family of lawyers and rabbis.

His early memories included playing with his youngest cousin, Frank Auerbach, now a greatly admired artist, based in London. By the time he was 10, though, life had changed under the Nazi regime, as he experienced the windows being broken in shops, and his father having to go into hiding. Neighbours who had been friendly started to throw stones.

Joachim’s family managed to arrange for him to leave Germany with Frank in July 1939. He never saw his parents again. They were murdered in a Nazi concentration camp in July 1942. Joachim was taken to Bunce Court, in Otterden, Kent, a German progressive school with a strong connection to the Quaker movement. It was there that his habit of reading the then Manchester Guardian began.

In 1944 Joachim left school and went to Birmingham, initially to a hostel overseen by a local branch of the Central Office for Refugees. His working life began at V&R Blakemore, the gunsmiths, in Digbeth, where he was an orders clerk. He then went on to work in Brampton Fittings, cycle fittings manufacturers, counting and weighing production, and later as an invoicing clerk at Hockley Chemicals.

Joachim later worked in the offices at Birmingham city’s salvage department and finished his working career as a civil servant in the Employment Office, retiring in the 1990s.

Alongside his work, Joachim attended evening classes at the College of Commerce (now Birmingham City University) and gained a BSc in economics, validated by the University of London. He travelled widely, to Russia, Peru, the US and China. He went back to Berlin in 1989 before the wall came down.

Some of his trips were with the International Friendship League, which was established to break down barriers between nations. Joachim’s recognition of the need for such an approach was borne out of his own experiences.

Joachim was a keen walker. He went on holidays in the Lake District and coach trips with the City of Birmingham Ramblers group. Through the group he joined the Birmingham Progressive Synagogue, where I am the rabbi, and he became a regular at social activities. He attended two dancing groups a week, including a Morris dancing team, until he was nearly 90. Joachim was a kind and gentle man, asking little and giving much.

He is survived by Frank and by another cousin, Leonard.

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