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Memorial to Jewish WW2 casualties unveiled at Pinner Synagogue
A memorial missing for 60 years that marks the sacrifice of 11 Jewish soldiers in the Second World War is due to be unveiled at Pinner Synagogue on Sunday.
The wooden board, created in the aftermath of the war to commemorate the deaths of servicemen from the Harrow Jewish community, went missing after the community split into different groups in the late 1940s but ended up at the old Pinner Synagogue that started in an old church hall in Cecil Park in 1951.
The current building was opened in 1981 and is currently undergoing a renovation, which led to members of the synagogue finding the memorial buried deep in the corner of a cupboard.
Member Brian Eisenberg told the Harrow Times: “There’s no evidence that the board was ever mounted in the old synagogue.
“We were rooting around in the cupboard as part of the renovation and they found it buried in a dark corner and wondered what it was.
“It’s such an exciting thing because it’s got so much personal history and everyone is so fired up about it.”
But the group didn’t stop there – they wanted to trace surviving family members of the killed servicemen and enlisted the help of professional genealogist Laurence Harris, who is also a member of the synagogue.
Now members of all 11 families will come together at the building on Remembrance Sunday to rededicate the board, which has been restored and mounted in the main hall of the synagogue.
Mr Eisenberg added: “For us to have such an opportunity to come together and pay our respects to these men 70 years later is incredible.”
At the top of the list of names on the board is Captain Simmon Latutin, who was posthumously given the George Cross for gallantry after attempting to pull three men from a huge fire in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Mr Harris said Capt Latutin, who lived in north west London, became known as the “hero of Mogadishu”, adding: “He went in there and pulled them out one by one even though he got burned the first time he went in – he saved their lives but died a few days later.”
Mr Harris, who has worked to trace Jewish history for the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? programme, said it had been an “amazing pleasure” to find out the stories of the 11 soldiers.
He added: “I was told that one of the names on the board was the brother of one of the members of our community so that’s where I started really.
“One of the first things I found is that some of the information on it was not necessarily accurate. It took me about four or five weeks to find ten of the families – the 11th was a real challenge but we found them last week.
“The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, it’s really been amazing. Some of them had information that we didn’t have, and for others I was able to provide information that they didn’t have which was personally a really nice thing to be able to give them.”
The synagogue is expecting hundreds of people to attend the rededication of the memorial, and the also-rediscovered consecration stone of the old synagogue, on November 11 between 3-5pm.