Much-loved Sheffield man who escaped Nazi Germany dies aged 92

A well-loved and respected Sheffield man who fled Nazi Germany as a child has died, aged 92, after a battle with cancer.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 3:42 pm
Rolf Heymann a German Jewish man who escaped Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport has died, aged 92. Picture Scott Merrylees

Rolf Heymann, who lived in Bolsterstone, Sheffield, was born in Germany in 1928 to a family of wealthy German Jewish horse breeders and was the son of a war hero who won the Iron Cross for saving a fellow soldier's life in the Battle of Ypres.

As the continent of Europe hurtled towards the horrors of World War Two, Rolf survived Kristallnacht to escape Germany on the Kindertransport, arriving in Sheffield in 1939.

Kristallnacht saw hundreds of Jewish synagogues, businesses and properties destroyed while thousands of Jewish men were sent to concentration camps.

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A Nazi mob sent to destroy the property where Rolf lived turned their attentions to others after a neighbour told them of his father’s First World War heroism.

After Rolf’s mother Herta learned that a Kindertransport train from Austria was due to come through Cologne, she vowed to get her son on it.

From there, he travelled to Rotterdam before catching a ferry to Harwich, where he was met off the boat by a cousin who had left Germany two years earlier to settle in Sheffield.

His mother followed the year after, and they lived at Embassy Court on Duke Street, with Rolf attending the tough Park School before being evacuated to a Nottinghamshire farm for four years where he learned English.

He eventually met an English girl called Jacqueline at Sheffield City Hall dance – the pair married in 1951, and they moved to a South Yorkshire log cabin where they stayed for the next 70 years.

In his earlier days, Rolf worked at a steel firm called Albert Bramalls and later became self-employed as a scrap metal merchant, working right up until his retirement in his 70s.

Rolf suffered from health problems and battled through a cancer diagnosis, but his health deteriorated before his death on October 28.

He leaves behind his only daughter Nina Wilson.

Nina has paid tribute to her father, saying: “He’d got a silly sense of humour sometimes. He was a lovely guy, and he loved everybody unless they crossed him.

"Even when he was in the hospital, all the nurses loved him to bits and thought that he was such a lovable guy. All his friends thought that he was a brave man and such a good person. Everyone loved him.”

She added: “He loved his holidays, and he loved to sit out in the sun. He also loved to have his friends round and enjoyed their company.”

Speaking about some of her fond memories with her father, Nina said: “I always remember going on holiday with my father, we went to Spain and Germany because his dad is buried in Germany.”

She says that he would want to be remembered for being a good person and always offering to help people.

Nina is hoping to get a bench installed in Bolsterstone in memory of both her mother and father.