The Tale of Leonhard Mokotow

The following story was related to me in a letter in 1980 from Terry Barnett of Hove, England. Terry’s father legally changed his name from Mokotow to Barnett when he became a British citizen.

“In 1937, while living in Portsmouth, my father received a cable from Berlin—a desperate plea. It was from his cousins, the German Mokotows. “Please would you look after our 15-year-old son, Leonhard.” So Leonhard Mokotow came to live with us in September 1937. When the war began in 1939, the government decided that enemy aliens had to live at least 20 miles from the coast. (We lived at that time in Portsmouth, the largest naval port in the country.) Seventeen-year-old Leonard was, they decided, an enemy alien. My father arranged Jewish lodging and work in a large Jewish factory. The owners promised to look after Leonhard. The location was in the outskirts of London.

“On the 11th of September 1940, a German bomber, miles off target, discharged its bombs. They exploded on the shelter where my 18-year-old cousin was. He was killed instantly. My family buried him in the West Ham cemetery in London. My parents were distraught. Leonard was an only child; his parents had entrusted him to their care.

“We survived the war. In 1945, my father had a letter from Leonard's parents. They had escaped to Vichy, France, where they had been hidden by friends. They, too, had survived but were both very sick. They wanted their son. All through the terrible war years, they at least felt happy knowing that their son was safe in England.

“My poor father had to tell them the truth. I believe they died shortly afterwards. My father had a stroke three years later, I am sure partly from this. The rest of his life was spent as an invalid until his death.”

Research into this family uncovered additional aspects of Leonhard’s life.  While in Berlin he—more likely his parents—tried to get him a visa to go to the U.S. It was denied. While in England, he tried to enlist in the British Army. He stated “The Germans kicked me out so I want to join up to show my gratitude to the country that has give me refuge.” It was denied.

Using a professional genealogist in Paris, I was able to find the death certificates of Leonhard’s parents. Mordechai Mokotow died 26 December 1953 in Paris. His wife, Rosa, died in Paris 19 Feb 1958.

According to the Canadian Jewish Immigrant Aid Services (JIAS) Leonhard's mother, Rosa, had correspondence with them in December 1938 trying to immigrate to Canada through a cousin who lived in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Links to Documents
Mordechai and Rosa Mokotow Listed In the 1938 Non-Aryan Census of Germany. 

Leonhard’s British Alien Registration Form

American Visa-Related Document for Leonhard Mokotow

Tombstone of Leonhard Mokotow
The Barnett Family
There is an unusual fact in Terry Barnett's family. Every male child has been named after his Mokotow grandfather. Terry's son, Harry, is named after Terry's father. Terry is named after his father's father. Terry's father is named after his father's father, and so back to the progenitor of the Mokotow family. The Hebrew name of Terry's son, Harry, is Dov ben Tuvia ben Dov ben Tuvia ben Dov ben Tuvia!