Rolf receives 100th birthday greeting from an old friend

By Pat Lidiker

WHILE enjoying opening all the cards from well-wishers on his milestone birthday, Rolf Penzias and his partner of 35 years Lucie Bernheim were not at all fazed to find one from King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla.

Rolf, a Holocaust survivor who escaped Germany as a child, said: “I’ve known the King personally for many years, largely through his compassion and consideration to those of us who arrived on the Kindertransport during the war.

“I’ve always found him and Camilla more supportive and compassionate about Jewish causes and our people than any other members of the Royal Family, even the late Queen. We were invited several times by the then Prince of Wales to events, lunches and garden parties.”

Another highlight of Rolf’s 100th birthday celebrations was a party arranged by the lunch club at South West Essex and Settlement Reform Synagogue (SWESRS).

Volunteer Sonia Lerner said: “We were all so glad to see Rolf and Lucie back at the club as they had been regulars pre-Covid. They are indeed a remarkable couple. The ladies who run lunch club did a collection for Rolf’s special birthday and our life president Sheila Chiat presented him with a certificate. As he had come to England via the Kindertransport, Sheila suggested we made a donation in his name to Safe Passage.”

Safe Passage is a charity working to provide legal assistance to refugee children enabling them to reach the UK in safety and free of exploitation and to be reunited with family members.

Rolf is also well known for his tireless work for the Holocaust Educational Trust, often speaking at events. This included a recent meeting in Ongar with the German Ambassador.

Rolf said: “It was very emotional but I found him charming, He wanted to know more about Holocaust events and gave a long, moving speech admitting how wrong what happened in Germany had been.”

Rolf was born in Munich – though has no ideas where such an un-German name as Penzias came from – and has been back there and to Berlin several times to talk about the Holocaust and his own family’s personal experience. The emphasis is always this isn’t history but HIS STORY.

Rolf (centre) with King Charles III at Clarence House reception for Kindertransport evacuees in 2005



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