Holocaust Educational Trust Blog

A space for featured guest bloggers and members of the Holocaust Educational Trust team to comment and reflect on timely issues.

Harnessing the Heritage of a Hidden Holocaust Hero


What to do when you discover your grandfather saved nearly 700 Jewish refugees from the Holocaust?

It’s an honorable legacy and a story worth telling. Moreover, with 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide – the highest number on record since the UN Refugee Agency began collecting statistics – re-appropriating the Jewish refugee crisis seems more relevant than ever. Cultural prejudice, racism, stereotyping, fear of refugees fueled by populist rhetoric by those in power… comparisons with today’s times are disturbingly similar, and the adverse effects of climate change are set to further exacerbate the issue.

My grandpa David Makofski initiated and ran Leeds Jewish Refugee Committee between 1934-39. Utilizing his network of the local Jewish community and beyond, David found accommodation and work for Jewish European refugees in order to obtain permits via the British government to secure their escape to the UK. (Read the full story Uncovering Yorkshire’s Schindler).

My family has digitized the archive documenting my grandpa’s work, held at West Yorkshire Archives in Leeds. Another archive of David’s letters is held at the Wiener Library, London and names of refugees brought over by this operation have been released publicly. Some of the ledger entries marked ‘nationality – stateless’ or ‘in concentration camp’ as early as 1938 touches a nerve, as does the equivalent of around £3000 in today’s money required for each refugee permit.

We’re intent on tracking down the families of those saved by David’s work in order to discover their stories, likely to be far more dramatic and courageous than his.

In relaying yet another cautionary tale, we hope to highlight the consequences of indifference and inaction from people and governments alike, alongside what can be achieved by like-minded individuals working together in such desperate circumstances.

If you know of a person brought over by Leeds Jewish Refugee Committee who isn’t listed, please contact West Yorkshire Archives via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., referencing WYL5047.

Diane McKaye, grand-daughter of David Makofski 

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