Edgar Lax was born in Berlin on 17 November 1923. He was the only child of Jacob Lax and his wife Amalie Lax, née Keins. Edgar had three half-siblings from his father’s first marriage to Esther Lax, who died in 1918. His half-brothers Paul and Edie died as children, and his brother Alois, 17 years Edgar’s senior, fled to Amsterdam in 1933, where he died of cancer in 1941. His father ran a wholesale womenswear shop in Berlin. The Jewish address book from 1931 says that the family initially lived at Markgrafenstraße 18, in Kreuzberg. Later, Amalie and Jacob Lax and their son Edgar moved a few hundred meters away, into a six-bedroom apartment with a balcony at Zimmerstraße 48b.
From Easter 1934 on, Edgar Lax attended the secondary school of the Jewish community in Berlin on Große Hamburger Straße. He witnessed the 1938 Kristallnacht in his parents’ apartment on Zimmerstraße, a few days before his fifteenth birthday.
In an interview with the Imperial War Museum in London in 2008, Edgar Lax described how his family had fearfully hidden in the apartment that night. They were afraid the Nazi mob on the street would read their name on the doorbell and storm the apartment. They slid a wardrobe in front of the door and survived the November Pogrom unharmed.
Edgar Lax left Berlin on 4 January 1939 with a children’s transport to Holland from Schlesischer Bahnhof. The train, carrying approximately one hundred girls and boys, left at 8:45 a.m. “Even on the platforms that were further away, one could still see people waving at us”, Edgar – who was also called Eddie – later wrote in his diary.
Edgar Lax and other Jewish children from Germany were accommodated in the so-called Dommelhuis in Eindhoven, Holland. After four months, out of concern, the helpers from the Jewish refugee organization sent him and half a dozen other children to England, because there was uncertainty about their citizenship. As Edgar Lax recounted in the interview with the British War Museum, he and these other children were the only ones in the group to avoid being deported to a concentration camp by the Germans later. On 17 April 1939, the children’s transport brought Edgar Lax to Hoek van Holland and then, on the ship “Vienna”, to Harwich, England. At first, he lived in Ipswich and was then taken in by a childless married couple in Northampton. Almost every day, he wrote letters to his parents in Berlin. They fled to Amsterdam in April 1940.
After the beginning of the Second World War, Edgar Lax and other Jewish refugees from Germany were temporarily detained as so-called “enemy aliens” at Prees Heath Camp.
It was only in August 1946 that Edgar Lax learned, in a letter from the Jewish refugee organization in Great Britain, that his parents had been deported to Auschwitz. He worked in England as a jeweler. On 12 June 1962, Edgar/Eddie Lax married his wife, Evelyn. Their sons, Daryl and Bobby, were born in 1965 and 1967. In 1989, Edgar Lax visited his hometown of Berlin for the first time since he had fled 50 years prior, for a school reunion. He died on 9 February 2013 in London, aged 89.
After his death, his sons discovered a suitcase belonging to their father in a garage. It contained photographs of the Lax family in Berlin, letters from Edgar’s parents, and documents. The sons and the widow are certain that the suitcase is the same one that Edgar Lax took with him when he left Berlin in 1939. On the occasion of the Stolperstein installation on 26 February 2020, his son Bobby brought the suitcase back from London to Berlin, on the same route that Edgar had taken when fleeing the Nazis, only in reverse. The family donated the suitcase to the Jewish Museum Berlin.