BORN PRASZKA, POLAND, NOVEMBER 2 7, 1927. DIED LONDON, AUGUST 10, 2009, AGED 81.
MUCH-LOVED AND long-serving choirmaster of Ilford Synagogue, Arthur Poznanski was one “the boys” brought to the UK as a Holocaust camp survivor in August 1945.
The oldest of three sons, he came from a cultured musical family in western Poland. His mother taught violin, his aunt sang soprano. His mother was a teacher in the state-run Jewish school, where his father was headmaster.
In 1942 his parents and youngest brother were deported. He and his late brother, Jerzy, were sent to work in the Hortensja glass factory outside the Piotrkow ghetto. They were separated when sent to other labour camps, Arthur ending up at Buchenwald.
Transferred by cattle truck to Mauthausen, Austria, in the final weeks of war, he jumped off the train as it drove through the Czechoslovak hills. He was shot in the thigh but saved from worse injury by a spoon in his trouser pocket.
He crawled to a village, where Czech partisans hid him in a barn during the search for escaped prisoners. Liberated by US forces, he was sent to hospital and then a DP camp, where he heard that Jerzy was in Terezin (Theresienstadt). He smuggled himself into the camp. The brothers were among the 732 young survivors flown to Britain.
Arriving in Carlisle, they were taken to Lake Windermere for convalescence and English lessons. Arthur then moved to hostels in Manchester and London, working in factories to pay for singing lessons at Trinity College of Music. He had an exquisite tenor voice but complications of work permit and union rules blocked him from taking up the roles he won at audition.
At 20 he was sacked from a spectacles factory, when he sang La donna e mobile to the noise of machinery and did not realise he was the only one working. Everyone else had stopped to listen.
He sang in amateur operatic societies and entertained at the Primrose Club, created to give “the boys” a feeling of home. Its leader, Berlin-born Yogi Mayer, invited him to sing and play guitar at the Brady Boys’ Club in the East End, where he met his wife, Renée Rudolf. They married in 1960.
In 1963 a Primrose Club friend engaged him for a managerial job at his small textile firm. Arthur combined this with his singing engagements.
His involvement with Ilford Synagogue began soon after. He taught and rehearsed choir and chazanim, and composed settings for psalms and prayers.
At his funeral, the Cantorial Singers group sang his Yizkor composition for the Holocaust martyrs. Worn-out prayer and scriptural books were buried with him as a mark of respect.
Kind, conscientious and scrupulous in business, he received a civic award for his tireless communal work, lecturing on the evils of racism. He was always grateful that he survived to create a family and pursue his love of music.
He is survived by his wife, Renée; daughter, Angela; son, Victor; and four grandchildren.