Veterans: A truly contented man

The youngest child on the Kindertransport, Paul Alexander leads a successful life; his only regret is that he never hit a six in cricket.

Paul Alexander veteran 521 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Paul Alexander veteran 521
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Perhaps the true heroes in Paul Alexander’s extraordinary story are his parents who, in 1939, sent their 16-month-old only child on a Kindertransport from their Leipzig home to safe haven in England.
The youngest child to be sent on the lifesaving journey from Germany, today he lives in Ra’anana with his Israeli wife, Nili, works as a lawyer and leads a satisfying and pleasant life.
Alexander doesn’t remember any of the events of his childhood that caused the separation from his parents, or much about the home he was housed in until the reunion with them in 1942, but he feels the whole episode affected him deeply and is unable to talk about it.
“To do what my mother did must have been impossibly difficult and shows what a strong person she was,” he says with emotion. “I always had a deep relationship with my mother, and I tell my children and grandchildren about what happened.”
If added proof were needed as to how strong Alexander’s mother was, she was able to get his father out of Buchenwald where he had been interned, and she obtained visas for England. After experiencing the London Blitz, the family moved to Leeds, where she opened a successful toy shop after the war.
Alexander grew up like any other English schoolboy, attending grammar school and deciding to study law.
“In those days, you had a choice of medicine or law, and as I had no scientific leanings, it had to be law – although I had no knowledge of what law was.”
Alexander made a successful career of it but regrets he didn’t pursue his great love of music as his life’s work. He began learning the piano at the age of seven, studying at the Leeds Music Conservatory twice a week after school.
“My parents were Yekkes [German- speaking Jews] and both played the piano. There was always classical music on the radio and we went often to concerts.”
Today, one of his proudest possessions is his Bechstein grand piano, “the love of my life.”
He met Nili in 1967, when she was working at the Israeli Embassy as the secretary to cultural attaché Aharon Megged. They decided to live in Israel after their marriage in 1968.
“I’d visited as a child and student, and in the back of my mind I always thought I would settle here,” he says. “Meeting Nili was the catalyst for me to fulfill a longtime ambition, and I felt I had no roots in England – as my parents had moved to Florida.”
Before settling here, they embarked on a long journey to the United States to visit his parents and travel around, even visiting Mexico, where Alexander had the thrill of seeing Pele play against England in the World Cup. When they got back to New York, for the return to Europe, they found they had run out of money and both worked as waiters in a new fancy restaurant.
“We made a fortune in tips,” he recalls, “and enough money to buy a Volvo in Sweden to drive to Israel.”
In June 1971 they arrived, staying first with Nili’s parents in Tel Aviv until they found an apartment.
While his wife found work as secretary to a documentary film producer, Alexander had to requalify as a lawyer. Since Nili was pregnant, he had to complete the studies as quickly as possible. Luckily, in those days, it was possible to take the bar exam in English, and he sailed through.
A few visits to an Israeli court during his internship convinced him he could never work there.
“I was shocked,” he recalls. “The lack of decorum, the undignified way the judge addressed the lawyers and vice-versa, the way the discourse went. It was so unlike what I knew in England, and I knew it was not for me.”
Alexander found a job as in-house counsel with the First International Bank in Tel Aviv and stayed for nearly 30 years. Today, he works from his home office, specializing in notary work and also doing translations.
He’s able to do legal work in Hebrew, English, German and French, and also some real estate law. Nili is also involved in real estate, and is the Anglo-Saxon representative in Tel Mond.
The music side of his personality was inherited by all three children. Their older daughter, Noa, who is married with four children, lives in Jerusalem and works as a music therapist; their second daughter, Hedya, lives in Paris, also has four children and teaches music; and their son, Nadav, who served in an elite Maglan unit in the IDF and works as an industrial engineer, plays the drums. Their grandchildren are also all musical and play a variety of instruments.
Alexander has sung in the Tel Aviv Philharmonic choir and the Kfar Saba Chamber Choir, did his army service as an NCO and loves all sports, having played football, rugby, tennis and cricket when younger. Today, he tries to keep fit by cycling, walking and swimming – and he loves to kick a ball around with his five grandsons.
His only regret, apart from choosing law over music, is that he never hit a six in cricket. But what cultural attaché Megged said about him back in 1971 is still true today.
Writing a column in the Davar newspaper on new immigrants, he described Alexander as “Ha’ish hameushar be’emet,” a truly contented man.
“Fortunately, I can say the same thing about myself today,” says Alexander.