IN 1938 twin brothers Hans and Fritz Toczek arrived in Bradford, having left their old lives in Germany. With Nazism casting its shadow across Europe, the Jewish boys’ father decided it would be safer for them in Britain.

It was a decision that saved the twins’ lives. Their father and older brother later died in the Holocaust, along with 40 other family members. But although Hans and Fritz found initial safety in the UK, when the Second World War got underway they were, along with other German citizens, arrested and interned. The boys were shipped to Canada, where they lived in a prison camp.

The remarkable story of Hans and Fritz - who later became John and Fred - is told in a film called TVINS which has an online premiere this weekend. Directed by Danny Hardaker and produced by Nigel Grizzard, it traces their lives through the eyes of their children, who include Bradford writer Nick Toczek.

“My dad and uncle were born in 1921. Their father sent them to school in Switzerland for a year, from 1937-38 then, with prejudice spreading, he felt it would be safer for them to leave mainland Europe”, says Nick. “They got places at Bradford College to study textiles.

“They grew up in Cologne, the only Jewish family in the neighbourhood, which Dad said was very tough. They learned boxing to defend themselves and were keen amateur boxers.”

Through his research for the film, Nick discovered that the brothers initially lived in a boarding house at Whites Terrace, Girlington. “I’ve never been to the house,” says Nick. “I was going to go there for the film, but with Covid rules that wasn’t possible so we used a drone to film it. I'm planning to go there when I can.”

The brothers had built new lives but in May 1940 they were arrested. “Churchill said ‘Collar the lot’ - tens of thousands of German and Jewish people and known fascists were interned,” says Nick. “In Bradford, men were held in cells under City Hall and women were held at Drummond Road School. John and Fred were taken to a former RAF camp near Harrogate then to the Isle of Man for about a month, then by boat to Glasgow. They sailed to Canada on an internment ship. As Jews, they were in holds in the bottom of the ship. Nazi sympathisers got better treatment.”

The brothers spent a year in a prison camp. “They worked as lumberjacks, living in poor conditions. But there was a newspaper and concerts. Some prisoners who were teachers and university lecturers gave talks, so there was some cultural life. Once it was established that they weren’t a threat, the brothers had a choice of staying in Canada or returning to the UK. On June 30, 1941 they returned to Bradford and lived at Bertram Road, Manningham. It’s difficult to know what they did at first. They didn’t talk about what happened. I know they applied for the Army but were refused as they were flat-footed. They were training to fly gliders when the war came to an end.

"Their experiences had been very difficult, but they benefited from having each other.”

After the war the brothers learned that their mother was alive. “She spent the war in hiding in Holland,” says Nick. “My grandfather, Otto, had a business with offices in Brussels. He and my grandmother, Johanna, planned to go to Holland then to the UK, but Otto didn’t make it. He was arrested in Brussels and taken to Le Vernet concentration camp in Ariege, France. He died in a typhoid outbreak. His older son, Alfred, died aged 22 in Mauthausen, Germany.

"In 2005 - 65 years after Otto's death - the BBC contacted Dad to say his father was buried in a grave at Perpignan, not a mass grave as we'd thought, as he was one of the first to die in the typhoid outbreak. They took Dad there in a documentary, he was in his 80s and laid flowers at the grave.”

Johanna was reunited with the twins in Bradford. “I remember she always ate every scrap of food,” says Nick. “She’d lived in hiding with other Jewish people and was sent out to get food, at great risk of being caught.” By the time Nick was born, in 1950, the family lived at Heaton Grove, Frizinghall: “We had the downstairs flat, Fred and his family lived on the top floor and my grandmother was on the middle floor. Another German man had the other flat.”

After the war Hans and Fritz changed their names to John and Fred. “They were German Jewish, and there was prejudice at that time. In 1947 and 1948 Dad and Fred were naturalised,” says Nick. “The prejudice lessened over time; there were so many people in Bradford from immigrant backgrounds.”

The brothers set up in business together, opening a wool sorting company at Barkerend Mills. “As a child I went on Saturday mornings and played on the wool bales,” recalls Nick. "Dad worked as a textile salesman too, and Fred went into artificial fibres."

John married Eileen, in 1949 and they had four children; Nick, Phil, Laurie and Mandy. Fred and Betty married in 1950 and had Paula, Vicky and Andrew. Nick and Paula each have a photo album from their grandmother which are used to tell Fred and John’s stories in TVINS. “Nigel put me in touch with some people who’d researched voyages to Canada and they had information on John and Fred,” says Nick.

Fred died in 1993 and John died in 2012. Nick, a professional writer and performer, would like to develop their story further: “I think Fred and John would have liked the film. It's a short film and I’d like to make a bigger one. There are more stories about them.

"I’ve done a big family tree, with over 13,000 people, but it’s difficult on Dad’s side because a lot of Jewish documents were destroyed. We have no-one left in Germany. My grandfather was fairly wealthy, but the family lost everything.”

* TVINS is screened on Sunday, April 11 at 7.30pm, followed by a Q&A from The studio in Bradford. For free tickets or more details go to

The film will also be available to view online from Monday, April 12.