Leo Nussbaum

Torstraße 89
Historical name
Lothringer Straße 34/35
Stone was laid
07 October 2023
25 February 1923 in Berlin
1934 England, Südrhodesien

Leo Leser Nussbaum (or ‘Leon’), was born on 25th February, 1923. When asked about his childhood in Berlin, he would describe his brother’s extraordinary Barmitzvah, or how, as a  family, the Nussbaums enjoyed the annual New Year’s performance of Beethoven’s 9th symphony; he avoided talking about the persecution of Jews.

Aged 11, on arrival in Bulawayo, his school-wear was lederhosen - entirely unsuited to the African heat and British colonial culture - but he soon acclimatised, learned English, even though he always retained a love of his native language, German. He told us he’d read all of Dickens by the time he was 13. He attended Milton High School, excelled academically and was awarded a scholarship to study medicine at the University of Cape Town. Leon relished Science as well as the Arts and sport. His short stature didn’t prevent him playing rugby (scrum half) or boxing (bantam weight); he also enjoyed fishing and big-game hunting. 

As a young doctor, he travelled to the UK, working as a Registrar in Wales, and then in Scotland attained his MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians). After that he returned to Bulawayo to work as a GP (General Practitioner). In 1951 he married Becky Abraham, a South African musician, and they had three children – Barbara, Naomi and Judy. Leon was a dedicated, hard-working doctor. People praised him for expert diagnosis and for his gentle ‘bedside manner’.  He was President of the Rhodesian branch of the British Medical Association c. 1962 and attended many medical conferences, sometimes delivering ‘papers’ – one published in The Lancet (1950), another (on the positive effects of drinking red wine) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (1963). He was also Honorary Clinical Tutor to the University of Rhodesia, a member of the Rotary Club and a fund-raiser for the Bulawayo Symphony Orchestra; For relaxation, he enjoyed socialising, travelling, fishing, playing cards, and shared a love of music with his wife. One year they were the Rhodesian Bridge champions. Above all, he was a ‘family’ man.

In 1976, when Rhodesia was embroiled in violent civil war, he decided to emigrate; Germany, Israel, South Africa and the USA were considered – he chose Houston, Texas. There he taught medicine at Baylor University for several years before switching to private practice in Fort Worth. By 1985 his health had deteriorated and he could no longer work, so returned ‘home’ to Zimbabwe. He died a few months later. He is buried near his beloved parents, Bertha and Oscar, in Bulawayo’s Jewish cemetery.