Heinz's first Elland Road match in 1939 after fleeing Nazi Germany led to his lifelong love of Leeds United

The first thing 19-year-old Heinz Skyte did when he got to Leeds in 1939 after fleeing Nazi Germany was catch a tram to Elland Road.

By Mark Lavery
Sunday, 8th December 2019, 6:00 am
Heinz Skyte pictured at the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre in Huddersfield.
Photo: John Steel
Heinz Skyte pictured at the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre in Huddersfield. Photo: John Steel

Heinz and his brother Frank watched Leeds United draw 1-1 with Everton – and from that moment Heinz was a Leeds fan.

Heinz has followed the club ever since, going to matches until the 1990s.

His beloved club marks its centenary this year and Heinz will celebrate his 100th birthday in February.

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Heinz Skyte pictured at the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre in Huddersfield. Photo: John Steel

To mark the double centenary, Heinz will be guest at Elland Road for the home game against Cardiff City on Saturday December 14.

Heinz and his son Peter will be guests of Jerry Holmes at Richardsons Office Furniture - in a gesture organised through the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association.

Heinz was forced to leave his home in Fuerth near Nuremberg after Jewish people across Nazi Germany were targeted one night in November 1938, which came to be known as Kristallnacht - the night of broken glass.

The name Kristallnacht - meaning 'crystal night' - was used as shards of glass littered the streets after the windows of Jewish-owned stores, buildings and synagogues were smashed

Heinz Skyte

At the time, Mr Skyte was a student living Hamburg, where he witnessed synagogues being set alight and the SS rounding up and taking away Jewish men.

He later discovered that his father had been arrested and taken to Dachau concentration camp, where he was incarcerated for six weeks – an experience that never left him.

Heinz was able to escape Germany and join Frank in Leeds, who found him a job as a trainee presser in the clothing factory where he worked.

Their parents managed to secure visas to travel to England in August 1939, just days before the outbreak of World War II.

Heinz Skyte

Heinz said: “Sadly, there was a great deal of antisemitism at the time and that still exists today.

"After war broke out, Germans living in England were all regarded with suspicion and my family was arrested and interned, despite the fact we were more anti-Nazi than most people, having already been expelled from Germany.”

Heinz and Frank were sent to an internment camp on the Isle of Man before being moved on to Canada, where they stayed until 1942.

On his return to Leeds, Heinz volunteered for war work and worked in engineering.

Heinz Skyte and his wife Thea on their wedding day in 1945

Heinz met and married a fellow Jewish refugee, Thea, who fled to England aboard the Kindertransport, and they had two sons, one who lives in London and the other in Israel.

The couple were granted British citizenship in 1947.

Heinz started work for the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board in 1951, eventually becoming chief executive, and remained with the board until 1985.

He was awarded the MBE for his dedication to community work in 1976.

Heinz is one of 16 Holocaust survivors and refugees whose stories feature in an interactive exhibition at the Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre in Huddersfield – the only facility of its kind in the north of England.

Based at Huddersfield University, it opened a year ago with the help of National Lottery funding. Since then, more than 5,000 visitors have experienced the ground-breaking interactive exhibition, Through Our Eyes, that tells the poignant stories of survivors and their families who settled in Yorkshire through original artefacts, film, photographs and their own personal testimonies.

Heinz Skyte pictured on entering an internment camp in 1940

Members of the Leeds-based Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association raised £1.1m to create the centre, in partnership with the University of Huddersfield.