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LEON JESSEL JP MBE

Past Grand Standard Bearer

Early Life.


Leon's father, Arnold Jessel was born on February 9, 1885 in Weilburg. In 1903 and 1909 he stayed temporarily in Duisburg and Wanheim. After his marriage to Martha Wolf, born on 12 May 1885 in Kaiserswerth, he opened a men's clothing and manufactured goods shop in Wanheim, Ehinger Straße 358, in 1912. (The house, demolished in-between, stood on the west side of Ehinger Straße about opposite the middle of the row of houses between the Wanheimer Hochbunker and the corner of Ehinger Straße and Steinbrinkstraße.)


In 1919 he moved his business to the house "Ehinger Straße 248" (1990: Wanheimer Straße 648), where the family lived until the violent destruction of the business premises in November 1935. However, the Duisburg address book of the year
1937 still contains the following entries: In the list of names: "Arnold Jessel, Manufakturwaren, Ehinger Straße 248"; in the street directory: "Ehinger Straße 248, Fritz Hell-weg, Kaufhaus". The information in the name directory is demonstrably incorrect, the information in the street directory is demonstrably correct. In 1936, Fritz Hellweg took over business premises and needs at Ehinger Straße 248.

The Jessel couple had three children:  Ruth, born 17 November 1911 in Düren, Edith, born 3 October 1913 in Wanheim, d. 20 May 1917, buried in Kaiserswerth, Leon(hard), born 25 June 1918 in  Wanheim. Arnold Jessel took part in the First World War as a German soldier from 1915 to 1918.


In the judgment of the older citizens of Wanheim, the "Haus Jessel" was well regarded. All respondents agreed that Arnold Jessel has distinguished himself every year through clothing and other voluntary donations in kind to those in need or to schools and kindergartens. Jessel was also a member of several clubs. In 1933, however, all memberships had to be dissolved. The list of members of the MGV "Sängerbund" 1871 Wanheim contains the name Jessel up to and including 1932. Johann Hütten of TV 1900 Wanheim reported that the gymnastics club had also been asked to cancel its membership. Although the association then deleted the name registration, the children Ruth and Leon were able to continue their practical participation in the exercises as long as possible. Leon Jessel confirmed this information on 15 May 1990 during his visit to Wanheim.


The first harassment of the family started shortly after January 30, 1933. Among other things, they were characterized by the fact that uniformed members of the NSDAP provocatively stayed near the shop and photographed business visitors.


It is also reported that citizens of Wanheim also terminated their  friendship with Arnold Jessel as early as 1933. The 14-year-old son Leon was arrested for the first time on April 1, 1933. According to him, his parents' business premises were devastated on the night of 19 to 20 November 1935 (20 November was The Day of Repentance and Prayer). According to our investigations, none of the newspapers published in Duisburg at the time reported on this incident. According to consistent information from Mr. Leon Jessel and Wanheim citizens, National Socialists from Hüttenheim were involved in the destruction of the business premises.


Immediately after this incident, the Jessel couple and their daughter Ruth went to The parents of Mrs. Jessel in Kaiserswerth, from where they had to return to Duisburg because Jews were not allowed to leave their place of residence. Until 1939 they lived in Duisburg, Lippestr. 18. The Duisburg address book of 1939 contains the following note: "Jessel, Arnold Israel, Lippestr. 18". (The National Socialists had specially marked the male Jews with the addition "Israel", the female ones with the addition "Sara" to their first name.) A Duisburg woman living in this house on the same floor reported in a letter to the city archives that the Jessel couple sometimes left the house at night: apparently for fear of further harassment. This could be matched by credible traditions from Wanheim, which report that Mr. Jessel visited former Wanheim customers under the cover of darkness and appeared reliable to him in order to offer them residual stock from his shop for sale. In this way, e.B. Mrs. Elisabeth Hucks purchased laundry for the dowry of her daughter Martha in 1935 or 1936.


In 1939, the Jessel family had to move to the house at Güntherstraße 12 in Duisburg, which belonged to a Jew and was inhabited only by Jews. Friedhelm Hütten, who now lives in the USA, remembers that as a student, together with his father, Hermann Hütten, Wanheim, Friemersheimer Straße 33, he went to Güntherstraße at night with a handcart to fetch valuables from the Jessel family in Wanheim and hide them in his parents' house. In the "Judenhaus" on Güntherstraße, deplorable living conditions are said to have prevailed because of the large number of people accommodated there. The last Duisburg apartment of the Jessel family was located in Meiderich, Baustraße 34/36.


Arnold Jessel was forced to work in Duisburg in 1939. Several Wanheimers consistently report seeing and greeting him in work columns of road construction. However, Mr. Jessel asked to renounce the greeting and to proceed inconspicuously. Something similar is also reported about Mrs. Jessel and her chance encounters with old acquaintances from Wanheim. Since September 1941, the Jews had to wear the so-called "Jewish star". Wanheimers have also seen this mark on the clothing of Mr. and Mrs. Jessel.


Ruth Jessel re-registered from Duisburg to Mainz in 1941 and married a Jew named Waldmann there. Leon Jessel, as already mentioned, was first arrested on April 1, 1933. In 1935 he went to Frankfurt to start an apprenticeship in the leather industry in a company known to the family. In 1938 he was arrested there again and in November sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp. From there, at the end of 1938, he asked his mother to send him 20 marks and an old blanket. At any time, about 13,000 Jews and 10,000 Germans were imprisoned there. As Leon Jessel reported in Wanheim in 1990, the physical performance acquired on TV 1900 Wanheim made it much easier for him to endure the inhumane prison conditions. In January 1939 he regained his freedom because an English couple unknown to him had agreed to take in a young German Jew. With a passport issued in Offenbach on 27 January 1939 in the name of "Leonhard Israel Jessel" and specially marked with a large red "J" (for "Jew"), he was able to leave Germany at the end of February 1939. Between his release from the concentration camp and his departure, he had been temporarily imprisoned in Offenbach about 15 times. His personal martyrdom, which had reached painful climaxes in Buchenwald, came to an end with his departure, but the suffering over the forcibly caused loss of all family members was still ahead of him.


On the back of the card, Leon Jessel had told his mother the following: Dear Mom, I'm sitting here, and I'm fine. I have a temporary mail block. Requests to the commandant's office are pointless. Please send me 20,-, because mailings by postal order are permissible. Please note Ne.. & Block. Also send me 1 old blanket and 1 pair of great boots. However, do not attach a letter. Best regards Your son Leon

Ruth Jessel's fate was fulfilled on 30 September 1942. Together with other Jews deported to Poland, they were imprisoned in Piaski/Lublin in a wooden barrack, which was then set on fire and cremated with all the people trapped in it.

Imprisonment in Buchenwald concentration camp. He managed to flee the Nazis. His parents and sister were not so lucky.


Arnold and Martha Jessel were taken from Duisburg to Theresienstadt in Bohemia on 25 July 1942 and from there to Auschwitz in Poland on 15 May 1944, where the "Final Solution" awaited them. The date of death is 1 November 1944, but there is no evidence of this.


Leon Jessel visited the Hütten family in Wanheim in July 1945 and claimed the family property in Kaiserswerth. In gratitude for their helpfulness, he then supported the Hütten family several times by sending parcels. Leon Jessel has found a new home in England and founded a leather goods factory there, which was run by his son.


Leon Jessel spent several days in Duisburg in mid-May 1990 at the invitation of Duisburg's Lord Mayor Krings. On 15 May 1990, he kindly accepted an invitation from the Heimat- und Bürgerverein Wanheim-Angerhausen e.V. to a conversation in the apartment of Chairman Wilfried Hucks. Several elderly citizens of Wanheim and the author also took part in this meeting. It was a difficult conversation at times, but it was unanimously assessed as necessary and useful by both Leon Jessel and the other participants. Mr Jessel stated that Wanheim citizens had never harmed the Jessel family and at the same time declared his willingness to cooperate fully in this report. We would like to take this opportunity to thank him warmly for this.
According to our current knowledge, the worker Hermann Hütten and his son Friedhelm, who were still of school age, were the only citizens of Wanheim who provided practical help to the Jessel family, who were in great need, disregarding the dangers associated with them.

Leon settled in Walsall, England where he married and had a son, Arnold. He owned his own leather goods business and was honoured by Her Majesty The Queen in 1974 with an MBE for services to export.

Leon famously Invited HRH, Princess Anne to his home for tea. She turned up!

He was a Justice of The Peace.

Leon was initiated into freemasonry and Streetly Lodge on 24th November 1961. He was proposed by Bro. W.J. Naylor and Seconded by The Rev. Vernon S. Nicholls. He was passed on 28th February 1962 and Raised on 25th January 1963. He became the Master in 1974.

In September 1979 he was a founding member of Junior Chamber Lodge No.8902 in the Province of Warwickshire.

He was appointed to Provincial Senior Grand Warden in Warwickshire and was later appointed in Grand Lodge to PGStB.

For many years he was a committed backbone of Streetly Lodge. His standards were always high, but he always encouraged those around him with kindness, charm and a large glass of whisky!

He is greatly missed.

Credit:Untitled Document (gemeinde-wanheim.de) 

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