A Jewish man who fled with his family to T&T from the Nazi holocaust returned to his former alma mater, Queen’s Royal College, to give thanks for the school’s impact on his life.
Dr Peter Laband, 92, a dental surgeon who now lives in the United States, was full of praise for his QRC as he walked across the school’s courtyard accompanied by members of the Queen’s Royal College Old Boys’ Association.
“It started right here. Without this, it would not have been possible. In a way, I came to say thank you,” he said.
Recounting his family’s dramatic escape from Nazi imprisonment eight decades ago, Dr Laband said his father, Dr Paul Laband, a Jew, was imprisoned for a year in the Buchenwald concentration camp, one of the first and largest German Nazi camps at the onset of the Second World War. In 1938 after his wife negotiated his release on the condition that the family would leave Germany within a month.
They decided to come to Trinidad after hearing that all they required was a landing pass and payment of $100 in TT currency. A relative in the Netherlands had access to the TT currency and they were able to secure passage on a German liner to get to Trinidad.
Dr Laband enrolled at QRC and attended the school from 1938 to 1945. He studied dentistry at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine in the US but credits QRC with giving him a proper start to succeed.
“I started out here, whatever you want to say about Queen’s Royal, it’s a gateway to anything you want to do,” said Dr Laband, “Queen’s Royal gave me what I needed to start out in life.”
Dr Laband is the last surviving Jewish student at QRC from the era of World War II. His mother, who was not a Jew, and his sister died in Germany. His father remarried in Trinidad and had a daughter, who attended Bishop’s Anstey High School.
“I am lucky to get to 92 and still to stand on my own feet and come here and say thank you. It makes me feel really good,” he said.
He translated his father’s memoirs, an account of his release from the concentration camp and the family’s journey to Trinidad into English and it is now on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.