The Independent London Newspaper
20th November 2018

Obituary: Death of Paul Yogi Mayer - teacher, author, and friend and mentor to a generation of refugee boys

    Paul Yogi Mayer

    PAUL Yogi Mayer, athlete, teacher, author, mentor and friend to a generation of refugee boys, died on Friday. He would have been 99 in September.

    He leaves a remarkable legacy that has been commemorated in Martin Gilbert’s book The Boys. It is a story of salvation and hope. Mr Yogi Mayer, in Britain having fled the Nazis in his native Berlin, was asked by the Jewish Refugee Committee to work as an instructor at Brady Street Boys’ Club in the East End. It was 1946, and hundreds of damaged and disoriented boys who had been rescued from concentration camps were arriving in London. A centre was set up for them in two old houses in Belsize Park; they called it the Primrose Club, after their telephone exchange. 

    It was here that Mr Yogi Mayer became their father figure. He played football with them, he taught them cricket on Hampstead Heath, he found a Viennese pastry cook to serve them cakes at a coffee bar, he taught them to dance so that they could meet girls. He taught them cricket, he used to say, because he wanted them to be part of the community they were now living in.

    Mr Yogi Mayer taught his boys (one of them became the much-loved Rabbi Hugo Gryn) to look forward, rather than back upon the terrible things they had seen and suffered. The Primrose Club had to close eventually for lack of funds, but Mr Yogi Mayer carried on his work at the Brady Club where he became youth leader then area youth leader for Islington. He was awarded the MBE for his services to youth in 1997.

    It was when he was 90 that he published the English version of his book, Jews and the Olympic Games. All his life he had tried to demolish the old stereotype of the Jew who is strong on intellect but weak on physical prowess. 

    It would amuse him to ask people how many Jewish Olympic medalists there had been in the last 100 years. They could just manage Harold Abrahams if they had seen the film Chariots of Fire. There were, he would say triumphantly, some 400 Jewish Olympic medalists. Their story is there in his book.

    His life was devoted to the breaking down of prejudice. Born in 1912 in Kreuznach, he was educated in Berlin and Frankfurt, and as a crack athlete was invited in 1935 to join an Olympic training squad for Jewish athletes, a ploy that fooled no one. 

    He was not asked to take part in the Berlin Olympics, but his real anger was directed at the way Jewish sports men and women were being expelled from clubs as “non-Aryans”. 

    Life in general became intolerable for Jews in Germany, and in May, 1939, Mr Yogi Mayer, his wife Ilse and their baby arrived in England. They had left  Berlin with a handsome white pram, a set of cutlery, and £20. Mr Yogi Mayer solved the immediate problem of penury by joining the British army. After the war he was able to carry on his work in sport and with young people, and unlike many German Jews of his generation, continued to go back to his native country – not only as a visitor but as an ambassador for mutual understanding.

    He and his wife brought up their three children and lived much of their lives in West Hampstead, and their daughter Monica is a well-loved presence with her fashion shop in South End Road – a street where a benign Mr Yogi Mayer, sitting in a café, would pass the time of day. If there is one regret, says his son Tom, it is that Mr Yogi Mayer did not live to see the 2012 Olympic Games.

    The funeral will be tomorrow (Friday), at 1pm, at Golders Green Crematorium.

    Published: 14 July 2011
    by RUTH GORB

     

    Comments

    Yogi Mayer

    The man who saved my family. My Dad had just left the navy around 1956 and Mum had us 3 boys and no where to go. Yogi gave them a job and roof over our heads in the Brady Boys Club. They were the cleaners and porters for the club and we lived on the top floor. It was such a busy place and local stars would turn up at times. Mum used to always pop in and see Mr Mayer even when we left the Club and in his office at Highbury Corner in later years. Rest in peace Mr Mayer you was a very kind man. David Hilliard

    Yogi

    This giant of a gentle man was incredible & loved by all
    He was admired & respected
    He changed our lives for the better gave us time,hope, understanding & taught us manners.
    It was indeed a privilage to have known him & he will never be forgotten.

    Yogi Mayer

    I was privileged to be a member of Brady Boys Club in the fifties and beyond.
    I for one owe him a great debt of gratitude.
    Yogi was and still is a legend.
    His dynamic personality and gift for showing real concern for young people, created a respect from all that knew him.
    He was a true innovator and had a knack of getting people to do things that they did not realise that they could do. A wise and wonderful man who will never be forgotten by a massive generation of people who he guided wisely.

    Frank Morpurgo

    Paul Yogi Mayer

    I was also a member of Brady Boys Club in the 1950s and fondly remember Yogi Mayer with great affection. He was everything to us young boys and we admired and respected him. I was also a member of the Brady Ramblers a singing group led by Greville Janner now Lord Janner, whom I hope to visit in mid May. Where have all the years gone?

    Stan Green (formally Greenspan the bakers son)

    stangreen@bigpond.com

    Sydney Australia

    Yogi

    I attended Brady in the 50s and was friends with yogi's son Tom. Yogi had a pronounced effect on my behavior, he was a good man. I have missed the Brady spirit for many years. My own father in law just passed away at the age of 99, he had as they say a GOOD innings. I left the UK in 1955 going to California with my family. It would be great to start some communications between old Bradians.
    Peter Modler
    pmodler@reldom.com

    Yogi

    I was a Brady boy in the 50's. How well I remember the Brady camps with Yogi.
    He was an outstanding man of great character, never to be forgotten.

    Ralph Grenville
    Houston Texas

    Yogi

    Dear Yogi,what would i have been without you and Brady.

    Denis Nyman

    Yogi

    Dear Yogi,what would i have been without you and Brady.

    Denis Nyman

    paul yogi mayer from victor feldman

    as an ex brady boy..yogi was an incredible man and very dearto us ex brady boys... i will always remember his paternal jestering...Victor feltmannnnn
    vill you behave yourself...he was an terrific role model for me....bless him...he was the best...

    Yogi Mayer

    I knewhim, I thought you may be interested in reading this.
    If I am not mistaken, your father belonged years ago to the brady club. May be I am wrong, but something rang a Bell. Yogi Mayer was quite a brilliant and sporty man..

    love, G

    Yogi

    A Brady institution. Rest in Peace Yogi and love to Carol and the rest of her family.

    yogi

    I WAS A BRADY BOY,IN THE SIXTIES,WHITECHAPEL BORN AND BRED
    I CAN STILL HEAR HIS VOICE,WITH THAT STRONG ACCENT OF HIS,HE WAS LOVED AND RESPECTED BY ALL THE BOYS AND GIRLS THAT WERE AT BRADY
    REST IN PEACE YOGI
    DP VALENTINE

    Yogi Mayer

    He was the most charismatic of men. A brilliant club leader, he inspired a generation of young people.

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