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Internationally recognised German-born British immunologist, Leslie Baruch Brent (1925-2019), was in an orphanage, refugee camp and boarding school as a child.

Lothar Baruch was born in Köslin, Germany (now a part of Poland) to Charlotte and Arthur Baruch. The Baruchs were practicing Jews and Arthur worked as a sales representative for several clothing manufacturers; he had been awarded the Iron Cross for his service in World War I.

Charlotte and Arthur arranged for eleven-year-old Lothar to be sent to a Jewish orphanage in Pankow, Berlin because he was being bullied at his local school. The orphanage was founded in 1882 in response to large numbers of Russian Jews fleeing their homeland and arriving in Germany. As the Russian Jewish boys left the orphanage, their places were taken by German Jewish orphan boys.

It was difficult for Lothar to settle into the orphanage as he missed his family and was not used to sleeping in a dormitory. Brent notes in his memoir that many of the boys were “deeply disturbed by their previous experiences” (24) which resulted in them wetting their beds and having tantrums during mealtimes.

Lothar stayed at the orphanage for two years. He was then one of the first children to leave Germany on the Kindertransport, an organised effort to rescue children from the Nazis.

So it was that on the morning of 1 December 1938 I found myself on the platform of one of Berlin’s railway stations…to board a train together with some two hundred other children…I cannot remember too many details, except that it was a chaotic scene, with parents clutching their children and saying tearful farewells. My own parents did their best to hide their emotions (Brent 31).

Much later, Leslie Brent found out that during 1942 his parents and older sister, Eva, had been packed into a cattle truck and, after a three-day journey from Berlin to Riga, the capital of Latvia occupied by Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1944. Charlotte, Arthur, and Eva were murdered in the woods at Riga on 26 October 1942.

On arrival in England—at Harwich in Essex—Lothar was taken to a holiday camp in Dovercourt, a small seaside town where a holiday camp had been converted into a refugee camp.

He was then chosen to attend Bunce Court School, a German-Jewish boarding school in Kent established by Anne Essinger (1879-1960). Essinger was a German Jewish educator who became a Quaker while studying in the United States as a young woman. She and her family set up a boarding school back in Germany in 1926 but Essinger migrated from Germany to England in 1933.

Despite the separation from his family, Lothar was happy at Bunce Court “away from the formal constraints of the German school system”. He also felt “liberated from the persecution and hate” (43) he had experienced in Germany.

At sixteen, and after the funding for his stay in England had run out, Lothar took up a job as a chemistry laboratory assistant at Birmingham Central Technical College while studying part-time. He continued to visit Bunce Court whenever he could.

In December 1943, at the age of eighteen, Lothar signed up for the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in the British Army and served from January the following year until the autumn of 1947. Basic training happened in Glasgow followed by officer training. Lothar was advised to change his name early during his service and, influenced by the then popular actor, Leslie Howard, and the telephone directory, Lothar Baruch became Leslie Brent. Many years later he added ‘Baruch’ as his middle name.

From the army, Brent returned to study, this time at Birmingham University where he read zoology, played hockey, and became involved in student politics.

Brent began studying with biologist, Peter Medawar, as a postgraduate student in 1951. He was doing a PhD at University College London (UCL) when he began in 1953 co-writing (with team leader Peter Medawar—who had relocated to UCL in 1951—and postdoctoral researcher Rupert Billingham) ground-breaking work on immunological tolerance, or the ability of a genetically dissimilar organism to accept a transplant from another organism.

The sobriquet “holy trinity” was applied to Billingham, Brent and Medawar when their 1953 observations escalated during the next 15 years to clinical bone marrow and organ transplantation (Starzl).

While he completed his PhD, Brent taught students at UCL. He then worked for the National Institute for Medical Research from 1962 until 1965, after which he was appointed Professor of Zoology at the University of Southampton where he worked until 1969. From 1969 until 1990, Brent was Professor of Immunology at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London.

With a long list of collaborators and coworkers, Leslie continued his work on transplantation immunity and tolerance, looking at quantitation and immunogenicity of alloantigenic stimulation, definition of partial tolerance and the use of adjuvants and drugs to promote the induction of tolerance (Hutchinson).

In 1967, Brent helped found the British Transplantation Society and served as the Society’s first General Secretary. He was editor of Transplantation between 1963 and 1968 and President of The Transplantation Society from 1976 for two years.

On his retirement in 1990—by which time Brent had published more than 200 academic articles—the laboratory he had established at St Mary’s was named the Brent Laboratory. It is now the Leslie Brent Laboratory serving several hospitals.

Leslie Brent was awarded The Medawar Prize in 1994, a prize considered to be the highest honour in Transplantation.

Leslie Brent continued to be active on his retirement. He published A History of Transplantation in 1997 and became involved in contemporary politics, such as the protests against going to war with Iraq in response to the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington. Brent also revisited his childhood experiences by publishing his memoir, Sunday’s Child? in 2009. And he participated in a 2012 documentary, The Essential Link: The Story of Wilfrid Israel, about a wealthy German Jewish businessman who played an important in the Kindertransport rescue mission.

Leslie Brent married Joanne Manley in 1954 and the couple had 3 children. Leslie and Joanne divorced after 32 years of marriage and Leslie married Carol Martin in 1991.

Leslie Baruch Brent was posthumously appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2020.


Brent, Leslie. Sunday’s Child? A Memoir. New Romney, UK: Bank House Books, 2009.

Hutchinson, Ian. “In Memoriam – Leslie Baruch Brent 1925-2019 TTS Medwar Laureate.” The Transplantation Society.

Richmond, Caroline. “Leslie Baruch Brent obituary.” The Guardian, 3 January 2020.

Startzl, Thomas. “Leslie Brent and the Mysterious German Surgeon.” Annals of Surgery, vol. 244 (2006).

Tessler, Gloria. “Professor Leslie Baruch Brent.” The Jewish Chronicle, 24 April 2020.

Tullius, Stefan. “Leslie Baruch Brent (1925-2019).” Transplantation, vol. 104 (2020).

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