BBC traces heirs to an ORT student who survived the Shoah


The BBC has broadcast a poignant programme describing the extraordinary story of Franz Nebel z”?l, a former ORT student who died in London in 2010. Mr Nebel and his older brother, Kurt, were among more than 100 students and seven teachers at the ORT Berlin school who were plucked from almost certain death by Acting Chairman of British ORT (now ORT UK) Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Henry Levey DSO OBE, z”?l, just three days before the outbreak of war.

The education he completed at the ORT Technical Engineering School in Leeds enabled him to pursue a good career after the war but died without leaving any children. The BBC series Heir Hunters follows the work of probate detectives looking for distant relatives of people who, like Mr Nebel, have died without making a will.

“Police contacted ORT after finding an article among his possessions about a group visit to Berlin by former ORT students of the Berlin ORT school in 1989,”? said ORT UK National Director Dan Green, who appears in the television programme. “We were not only able to give the police a lot of information but secured permission from the coroner to give Franz a Jewish burial. Usually, if next of kin isn’t found, bodies are cremated and buried in a Christian cemetery.”?

Sadly, Mr Nebel died alone in his apartment in west London, his brother and wife having predeceased him and his parents having been murdered at Auschwitz. But the probate detectives traced relatives in Israel that he never knew existed.

ORT opened its school in Berlin in 1937 to provide vocational training for Jewish youth who could not gain admission to state or municipal trade schools under the Nazi regime. The school operated under the auspices of British ORT, which afforded it added protection.

Despite Lt Col Levey’s success in rescuing so many children, they represented only half the students at the ORT school. Tragically, the remaining 100 were unable to leave and, together with their teachers, perished at Auschwitz in 1943.

A plaque in memory of Lt Col Levey and the Head of the ORT Berlin School, Dr Warner Simon, hy”?d, who stayed behind and was killed at Auschwitz with his wife and young son, can be seen at World ORT’s Alex and Betty Schoenbaum Science, Educational, Cultural & Sports Campus at Kiryat Yam.

Heir Hunters can be viewed on BBC iPlayer for 29 days here: .

Those living outside the UK who may not be able to access iPlayer may be interested to read the story of the ORT school in Berlin which first appeared in Ha’aretz: