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Leopold Wiener

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
29 May 1939
Interview number:


Dr Bea Lewkowicz

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Leopold Wiener was born in November 1932 in Svinov-Ostrava, present-day Czech Republic as the only child of Stella and Josef Wiener. Ostrava was famous for coal mines and steelwork factories. His maternal grandparents owned a popular pub near the railway station where they served the miners and factory workers. Leopold remembers the food that was served in the pub and spending a lot of time there with his mother who helped out. His father’s parents also owned a pub in nearby Bohumin. His parents were introduced by a Shadchan and married in 1930. His father studied law and qualified in Czechoslovakia and Germany, then he worked as partner in a law firm in Ostrava. Leopold has a vague memory of the Sudeten Germans celebrating the arrival of German troops in March 1939. Life changed dramatically after that and his parents decided to leave via Poland. At first, they had planned to go to Palestine but then obtained visas for Great Britain. Leopold remembers the train ride to Gdynia (Poland) from where the ship would leave. They left on the ship “Warszawa” with many other refugees on board and landed in Tilbury on the 26th May 1939. His father followed on a different ship via Sweden. Leopold didn’t attend school in the beginning but played with other Czech refugees on Clacton-on-Sea beach. From there they went to Dorking and lived with other Czech refugees in a house that possibly belonged to composer Vaughan Williams. When fellow Czech refugees found work in Taunton, Somerset, Leopold’s parents followed them. Leopold was enrolled in Taunton North Town Boys’ School, started learning English and later obtained a scholarship for the prestigious Huish Grammar School. Motivated by their family background in hospitality, his parents opened the “Czech Café” serving Bohemian specialities like Sauerkraut, Schnitzel and Gulasch to American soldiers from nearby barracks. After graduating from school, Leopold studied pharmacy and his first job was running the pharmacy of the hospital of the Royal Army Medical Corps. In 1957 he opened his own chemist business in Chapel Market. During a business trip to Israel, he met his future wife Ruthi Offner and shortly after, they got married in Jerusalem. They settled in London and in 1966 their daughter Susanna was born. She joins Leopold at the end of his interview and they talk about their family life.

Key words: Wiener. Bielitz. Bohumin (Oderberg). Svinov-Ostrava. Sudeten. Krakow. Bieslko-Biala. Faerber. Kassler. Wurzel. Huppert. Count Wilczek. RIX department store in Ostrava. Gdynia. Warszawa. Clacton-on-Sea. Dorking. Vaughan Williams. Taunton. Czech Café. North Town Boys’ School. Army Hospital Aldershot/ Cambridge Hospital. Israel.


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