Frank Loeffler

Frank Loeffler by his son

My father was born Francis Herbert Keeling Loeffler in Oxford on April 30 1920. His was father was George Berthold Loeffler, a chemist and financial broker who was born in 1857 in Prussia. His grand uncle was Friedrich August Johannes Loeffler, a doctor who collaborated with Dr Koch in the discovery of the antidote to tuberculosis. There is still a hospital for keeping patients isolated and a research institute that bear his name in Germany.

His mother was Elizabeth Harriet Keeling, an Anglo-Irish protestant born in Northern Ireland in 1875. When my father was born, his father was 63. He had no brothers, sisters, aunts, or uncles. Dad was brought up in the Channel Islands and attended Victoria College, a boarding school in Jersey. At 16 he was sent to Germany to a college in Marburg an Lahn for one year and to France for six months. He was bilingual. At Cambridge to study law and qualified as a barrister. There was no graduation ceremony because it was 1940. At this time his parents were living in Jersey under Nazi occupation. His father probably died of malnutrition there in his eighties.

Frank joined the Communist Party at Cambridge, as did many other students. He was in the anti-fascist movement there and chairman of the Socialist Club. He supported the Spanish Republic against Franco. During the war he worked in an engineering company in Aylmer Road near East Finchley that made Lancaster bombers. He worked alongside Czech engineers from Skoda factory who were advising on the assembly line. He worked in an air raid shelter. He also ran a hostel for German refugees fleeing Hitler and it ws there he met my mother Sabine, who had left Germany with her family in 1933. They married in June 1941. Frank took over as secretary of the Labour Committee in Warwick Avenue, Paddington.

His mother came back from Jersey, there having been very little contact between them during the war because of the difficulty of communicating by post. They made contact again through the Red Cross. They sold their properties in Jersey and bought a house in Aberdare Gardens, Hampstead. In 1944 my sister Harriet was born and in 1946 Caroline. The family moved to Guernsey, where my father worked as a barrister in the Attorney General’s office in St Helier. They returned to London and I was born in 1950. Dad’s mother finally went back to Jersey and died in a nursing home. He began working for a firm called Thompsons and took his final exams to become a solicitor, after which he joined a firm called Garber and Vowles, which finally amalgamated with others to become Gaster, Vowles, Turner and Loeffler. They were all socialist lawyers. He stayed with them until he retired at the age of 72 in 1992. My father specialised in conveyancing for house purchase. He also worked helping socialists and communists who had been imprisoned. He went to Spain to advise the defence tema of Senor Grimau, the freedom fighter who was eventually murdered by the Franco regime. He also met Senor Negrin, the exiled President of the Spanish Republic, in London.

From Aberdare Gardens our family moved to Milton Park, Cholmeley Crescent, and finally Lissenden Gardens on Parliament Hill in the early sixties. He was a founder member and chairman of the Lissenden Gardens Residents’ Association, which persuaded Camden Council to buy the estate from the owners. He devoted a lot of his time to the Association until very recently. He also always helped his neighbours with free legal advice although he had retired.

He was a trustee of the Unity Theatre, which later became a charity. He often sat in on their meetings to act as legal adviser. There he met the actor Alfie Bass, who became one of his clients. He also acted for Joan Jara, the English wife of Victor Jara, the Chilean singer who was murdered by the Pinochet regime. He was a trustee of the Marx Memorial Library, also giving them legal advice and drawing up the deeds for Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetary. He also become involved with them 40 years ago and was a director of Marx House Ltd. My father was also at one time legal adviser to the Morning Star newspaper.

When my uncle Jock Nicholson stood as a communist candidate for Camden, Frank was his election agent. My parents visited my aunt and uncle, who were living in Cuba at the time. I can remember a dinner in our flat with John Platts Mills, who was the defence counsel for the Kray twins. Frank was also a member of the Haldane Society, a group of socialist lawyers. He was secretary of the Lawyers’ Party Group, who advised the Communist Party on legal matters.

He loved classical music, especially Mozart and Mahler, but also jazz, and had Miriam Makeba in his record collection. He was a fantastic father to me and was always there when I needed him. I know that we all loved him dearly: his daughter Harriet, his granddaughters Emma, Joan, Sara, Michelle and his grandchildren Danny, Zoe, Chilli, Max, Ruby, Milligan, and Samuel.

He told me he was an agnostic, which to him meant he wasn’t sure either way about the existence or not of God.

So, father, thank you for everything, goodbye, and have a safe journey.

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