Exploring Surrey's Past
Imagine leaving your home for a new country to live with strangers and never knowing if you would see your family again. For many children and young people sent away to escape Nazi persecution In the 1930s and 1940s, Britain became their new home. Here they were cared for in homes, hostels and schools, often by dedicated teams of people who helped to give them a new life and new opportunities.
One of the schools in Surrey that provided a home for these children was Stoatley Rough in Haslemere. Opened in 1934 as a ‘German-English school’, it initially catered for children who, for political or racial reasons, could not be educated in their native country. The establishment of the school was mainly due to the efforts of three remarkable women: Marjorie Vernon, Bertha Bracey and Dr Hilde Lion.
Marjorie Vernon (1887-1961) was the daughter of Arthur Lewis Leon, a member of the London County Council and of the Surrey Education Committee. Her mother, Marion Grant, undertook social work and was treasurer of the Haslemere Liberal Association. In 1897, Stoatley Rough was built for the Leon family at the far end of Farnham Lane. Arthur Leon died in 1927 and, following Marion Leon’s death in 1933, Marjorie Vernon made Stoatley Rough available to the Society of Friends.
Since the end of the First World War, the Society of Friends in Britain had run an international Quaker relief programme in Germany. Bertha Lilian Bracey (1893-1989) had spent several years in the 1920s as a youth worker for the Friends in Nuremberg and Berlin, followed by two years as the British Friends’ representative in the International Secretariat in Berlin. When Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in 1933, Miss Bracey became general secretary of the German Emergency Committee of the Society of Friends in Britain.
In December 1933, the Society of Friends was approached by Dr Hilde Lion (1893-1970) with plans to open a small school in England for German refugee children. Dr Lion, a Jewish academic, had been dismissed in May 1933, from her position as director of an academy for women’s studies in Berlin, and came to England in November of that year. Bertha Bracey introduced Dr Lion to Mrs Vernon and, following the fundraising of some £500, Stoatley Rough became the home for Dr Lion’s school. Mrs Vernon and Bertha Bracey remained closely involved with Stoatley Rough, serving on the of the school’s council, committee and board of governors.
Stoatley Rough School opened in April 1934, offering bilingual education, with the aim of improving the pupils’ English so that they could continue and complete an education that had been died to them in Germany. Quaker educationalist, Isabel Fry, agreed to manage the school for the first few months, then continued to support the school as a committee member. Along with Dr Lion as principal, the school’s first teaching staff were Eleonore (Nore) Astfalck, who ran the household course and took on the role of housemother to the younger children, and Johanna (Hanna) Nacken, who taught the practical and handicraft subjects as well as being the school’s bookkeeper. Both women remained at Stoatley Rough until 1946 when they left to help with the post-war reconstruction of Germany. Deputy Head and friend of Dr Lion, Dr Emmy Wolff, joined Stoatley Rough in 1935 where she taught German language and literature.
Stoatley Rough School’s first pupils were two small refugee boys and five older refugee girls. The separation of brothers from sisters was considered detrimental and, consequently, the school operated as a co-educational establishment with a full age range. By spring 1936, following the passing of the Nuremberg Race Laws the previous year, there were 31 pupils at the school. As the situation in Germany continued to deteriorate, many parents made the difficult decision to uproot their children from home to a safer place, unsure of whether they would see them again.
The Lindemayers, a German Christian family of Jewish origin, sent their three children to England, with their oldest daughter Edith attending Stoatley Rough School in 1937. The parents’ correspondence with their son and daughters was published as ‘A Thousand Kisses – the letters of Georg & Frieda Lindemayer to their children 1937-1941‘ (2006). Full of affection and concern, trying to understand their children’s new lives, they clung on to the hope that they would be reunited someday.
“It gives me more and more pleasure to get your letters. Very gradually I’m getting to know Stoatley Rough through them, and I’ve actually got quite a clear picture of much of the school. Don’t lose sleep over the fact that you can’t speak enough English yet. It will all suddenly fall into place!” (Frieda Lindemeyer in Dusseldorf, to her daughter Edith in England, 5 April 1937)
Georg and Frieda died in a concentration camp in Minsk in 1941.
In March 1938, Stoatley Rough School received an influx of refugee children from Austria following the country’s annexation. By 1939, pupil numbers had risen to 81 and, at the outbreak of war, there were 90 students, of whom 50 had left parents behind in Germany. A former pupil, Wolfgang Elston, described the school as ‘an island of sanity where children could go through all of the stresses of growing up in safety and security’.
Recognised by the Ministry of Education in 1940, Stoatley Rough continued as a school after the Second World War, its intake gradually changing to disadvantaged British children sent by local authorities. The school closed in 1960 on the retirement of Dr Lion, when it was purchased by The Ockenden Venture and renamed Quartermaine.
Hans Goldmeier was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on 20 July 1928. In April 1939, he and his brother Rolf were sent to England where a cousin had arranged for the brothers to be cared for by a Jewish family in Sunderland. Later that year, Hans’s parents, Isidor and Erna, were also able to come to England and settled in London where Erna worked as a nursemaid. On the outbreak of war, Hans and Rolf were evacuated to Bellerby, a small village in the Yorkshire Dales, where they lived with the Scotts, a farming family.
In April 1941, Isidor died of a heart attack. Erna secured work in Guildford and successfully applied for a place at Stoatley Rough School for her younger son, Hans, so that he could be nearer to her. The older son, Rolf, attended an ORT (Jewish education and vocational training) school in Leeds. Hans stayed at Stoatley Rough until he passed his School Certificate with Matriculation in 1944.
A year later, in February 1945, Hans, his mother Erna and brother Rolf emigrated to the USA. Before he left England, Hans wrote to Dr Lion:
On one hand I’m very much looking forward to being in U.S.A., but on the other I’m very sorry to leave a place which has been my home for nearly 3½ years. It took me a long time to get used to Stoatley Rough, but when I did, I liked it very much. The good education I received will benefit me for the rest of my life and I shall always remember the place where I got it. I must thank you and all the other teachers very much indeed for all the trouble you have taken over me.
Once in the USA, Hans became John Goldmeier, qualified as a social worker and spent most of his career at the University of Maryland School of Social Work.
John’s papers were donated by his daughter to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington DC which has kindly provided Surrey History Centre with digital copies of the collection. The collection includes Hans’s Stoatley Rough school reports, his written essay, ‘D-Day in a School in the South of England’, correspondence from Hans and his mother Erna to Dr Lion, photograph albums, a typescript autobiography and ‘Stoatley Roughians’ newsletters. The records are available to view on CD at Surrey History Centre (SHC ref Z/635).Stoatley Rough website
Since the end of 2018, we have been fortunate to host the content of the Stoatley Rough Historical Trust website on our Exploring Surrey’s Past site. The website was originally created by Peter Neivert for a ‘Stoatley Roughians’ reunion in Haslemere in 2004; Mr Neivert’s mother, Ilse Kaiser, was a pupil at the school from 1939 to 1944.
The website offers a fascinating and thorough insight into life at Stoatley Rough and the people who worked and studied at the school. As well as an illustrated history of the school, there are photographs of pupils and staff, film footage of the school taken in c.1938, the memories of Hans Loeser, a pupil at the school from 1937 to 1939, and photographs of the school reunion, 2004.
A further collection of photographs of Stoatley Rough School staff, pupils and buildings will be added to the Exploring Surrey’s Past website at a later date.Other records and bibliography
The main archive of Stoatley Rough School, 1923-2000, is held at the London School of Economics Library. The records were held by Dr Lion after the school closed, with the intention to produce a history of the School, but it was never written. After Dr Lion’s death in 1970, her colleague Louise Leven deposited the records in the LSE library.Other related records held at Surrey History Centre
Papers relating to the closure of Stoatley Rough School and its subsequent lease to Ockenden. Includes Ockenden Venture correspondence with St Mary’s Convent and Dr Hilde Lion. Also correspondence concerning the organisation of a work camp to prepare the building for use, 1959-1964 (SHC ref 7155/5/13/1)
Correspondence with Dr Margot Kogut regarding reunion of former Stoatley Rough pupils (‘Stoatley Roughians’) and unveiling of plaque at Quartermaine, 10 Nov 1990. Includes news cutting. Also letter from former pupil researching history of school (SHC ref 7155/5/13/10)
Papers relating to Stoatley Rough School, Haslemere: signed visitors’ book on the occasion of the ‘Stoatley Roughians’ reunion in Haslemere, Nov 1990. Correspondence between Ailsa Moore and Michael Johnson of Reigate concerning the Stoatley Rough reunions, 2011 (SHC ref 9642/27)
Photograph taken At the Stoatley Rough School reunion and plaque unveiling: Nov 1990 (SHC ref 9642/51)
DVD of reunion of former pupils of Stoatley Rough, produced by Patricia Ellis of Wizard Video Productions, whose husband was a pupil at Stoatley Rough. 45 minutes, Oct 2004 (SHC ref Z/560/3)
Stoatley Rough School newsletter, number 20, 2000 (SHC ref Z/560/4)Bibliography
GOLD, Michele M. Memories that won’t go away : a tribute to the children of the Kindertransport. Kotrim, 2014.
LEVERTON, Bertha and LOWENSOHN, Shmuel. I came alone : the stories of the Kindertransports. Book Guild,1990.
LOESER, Hans F. Hans’s story. iUniverse, 2007.
MOSKOVITZ, Sarah. Love despite hate : child survivors of the Holocaust and their adult lives. Schocken Books, 1983.
MOSS, Christophe (ed). A Thousand Kisses : the letters of Georg and Frieda Lindemeyer to their children, 1937-1941. Bloomsbury, 2006.
WOLFENDEN, Barbara. Little Holocaust survivors and the English school that saved them. Greenwood World, 2008.
We’re stock-checking for the next couple of weeks and having to do all those jobs we’ve been putting off because we can’t do them when we are open to the public. This is not always the best fun, I can tell you. It often involves intense physical work (re-shelving documents) cleaning documents (which can be filthy work) tidying book-shelves, sorting and tidying maps, catalogues and microfiche – I think you get the picture. It’s like housework on a huge scale!
The heritage assistants have a variety of tasks they undertake during this period and one of mine is to identify new sources to index and put on-line. I supervise a wonderful group of volunteers who are working tirelessly at indexing the Board of Guardians poor law records – particularly the minutes. The minutes don’t list everyone who passed through the auspices of the Boards of Guardians but they do mention quite a few people and can be an invaluable source. But where to go next?
Invariably, whatever I think is a useful source to index is not going to appeal to everyone. However, I’ve started two indexing projects – one to index the magistrates court records for the First World War period and the other the list of vagrants as compiled by the Quarter Sessions.
Magistrates Court records contain a variety of information, although it has to be said, not in any great quantity. However, I have been finding out a few useful things they contain which you may find interesting:
1) Applications for child support – where the father is often listed by name! Great for those people frustrated by the lack of a father’s name on a birth certificate
2) Soldiers: mainly those arrested for kicking over the traces on a Saturday night but occasionally for desertion or assault, etc. Usefully, they occasionally give the regiment they are with and even in some cases a service number
3) Applications for extending licences for a variety of clubs, pubs, trading on racecourses, etc. These can give a lovely bit of colour to our ancestors’ lives!
There are also, of course, a variety of petty misdemeanours which to our modern eyes seem quite trivial. Countless people were brought before the magistrates for having no lights on their bicycles, no dog licences, inadequate lights on cars, etc. During the war years it seems to have been difficult to balance the whole car lighting question. There are some people fined for not having lights and others fined for too many lights. I suspect a motoring historian could illuminate (ha! ha!) me on this?
Therefore you won’t get a huge amount from magistrates’ records but they can provide some useful ‘nuggets’.
Similarly with vagrancy records. Vagrants have been classed in different ways over the years but in the 18th century they included those who were not settled in a particular parish (for more information on Settlements see my blog of 22 September 2017). It was the duty of the parish constable to evict from the parish anyone who didn’t have a right to be there (that is, either not gainfully employed, not having right of settlement or not having the necessary paperwork to entitle them to stay). They would be taken to the parish boundary and escorted over the border and left for the next parish/county quarter sessions to sort out. Rather a harsh solution and not always terribly effective, as you see the same names recurring again and again. Like the Magistrates’ Court records, they don’t give a huge amount of information but they do give the parish that the unfortunately vagrant was evicted from, where they were sent to and more importantly, their settled parish. Mind you, some of the spellings are a bit creative and I’m guessing that this was because the quarter sessions officials simply hadn’t heard of half the places they were being told – or couldn’t understand them. Aberistwith [Aberystwyth] is a classic example of a dodgy entry, although to be fair, I think the officials made a pretty good stab at spelling it!!
We would love to hear suggestions about what records you would like to see indexed. We can’t always promise that we are able to keep up with demand but it does help us to understand what people would like or find useful.
PS: Do look at our lovely Advent Calendar on our Facebook page (https://en-gb.facebook.com/surreyheritage/). These include some of the wonderful images in our 70th Birthday Celebration Booklet.
An estimated 2 million women replacing men in employment during the war was a key factor in obtaining the vote. New Zealand born Noeline Baker, who had co-founded the Guildford branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, worked with the London Society for Women’s Suffrage register of voluntary women workers, the Surrey Women’s Farm Labour Committee and the Women’s Land Army. In 1920 she received a MBE for her war work.
David Lloyd George replaced Herbert Asquith as Prime Minister in 1916 bringing a more liberal stance and arguments for women being enfranchised could no longer be ignored. On 6 February 1918, after 52 years and 16,310 petitions to parliament, the Representation of the People Act finally granted the vote to women over the age of 30, if they occupied property to the value of at least £5, or were married to a man who met the property qualification. The vote was also extended to all men over the age of 21. Many women campaigners still did not qualify. Suffragette Lilian Lenton recounted how ‘I didn’t vote for a very long time because I hadn’t either a husband or furniture, although I was over 30’.
The first national election in which women voted took place in December 1918. The previous month The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act allowed women to stand as a Member of Parliament. Constance Markiewicz was the first elected female MP (Sinn Fein) although she did not take her seat, and it was not until 1919 that Lady Nancy Astor became the first female MP to enter Parliament. Surrey elected its first female MP, Virginia Bottomley (Conservative) for South West Surrey in 1984.
However, it was not until 1928 that the Equal Franchise Act granted the right to vote to all men and women over the age of 21, which was lowered to 18 in 1968.
Surrey’s road to the vote has been long but it is filled with the inspirational stories of local women and men who fought for the voting rights we enjoy today. Women now participate in every sphere of local and national politics and community governance.
Many women who were campaigning against the vote were active in their local communities and held positions of power and influence in society. Some felt that that their influence could be applied in the local and domestic sphere without the national vote.
Bertha Broadwood of Capel was the daughter of Henry Broadwood of the famous piano manufacturers, John Broadwood and Sons. She was a philanthropist who took an active interest in politics, community matters and the education of the working classes, setting up the Cottage Benefit Nursing Association in 1883. Despite her ventures outside of the domestic sphere, she did not believe women should have the vote. Bertha was a committee member for the Dorking Branch of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League and in her notes expressed disapproval of ‘female faddists’ who ‘kick and scream and chain themselves to railings’. She wrote, ‘all this fatigue, excitement and struggling worrying after the vote and vast expenditure of something like £15000 in 3 years seems such [a] pitiful waste of energy and money when help and workers [are] so sorely needed for Hospitals, Waifs and Strays’. She was invited several times to engage in discussion at meetings of the Leith Hill and District Women’s Suffrage Society but always declined.
Margaretta (Etta) Lemon MBE of Reigate was a co-founder of the all-female organisation that became the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Renowned for public speaking, she lobbied for legislation to protect wild birds against the fashion for wearing feathered hats which she claimed was ‘murderous millinery’. Etta was deeply involved in her local community, serving as Mayoress of Reigate in 1911-1913, and as chair of the local Women’s Temperance Society and Red Cross. Like Bertha, she was an anti-suffragist and believed that to give women the vote would ‘work irrevocable mischief to human progress, to the British Empire, and to women themselves’. Etta headed a branch of the East Surrey Anti-Suffrage League and in a letter to the Surrey Mirror, dated 27 June 1908, she encouraged those ‘desirous of combatting the Women’s Suffrage movement’ to contact her.
The post Panel 11: Anti-Suffragists in Surrey: Active Women in the Community appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.
As the suffrage movement strengthened so did the opposition, with groups, including many women, campaigning countrywide against women gaining the right to vote.
Women were already able to vote in local government elections and could be elected to local boards and councils. For anti-suffragists this showed that women did not need the parliamentary vote because they could already participate in their natural sphere of ‘domestic’ politics. The Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League was founded in 1908 in response to a petition signed by 37,000 women who believed that the vote would ‘destroy, rather than add to’ their influence in local government. The League was led by author, Mary Ward (known as Mrs Humphrey Ward), who lived for a short time in Haslemere.In 1910 the League merged with the Men’s League for Opposing Women’s Suffrage to form the National League for Opposing Woman Suffrage (NLOWS) which had branches across Surrey.
The 1911 annual meeting of the South East Surrey branch of the NLOWS was reported in The Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser. The report stated that in November 1910, a postal canvass was made of the 906 women municipal electors of Reigate Borough as to whether they supported votes for women in national elections. 199 women were in favour, 338 against and 369 votes were either neutral, not returned or not counted on other grounds. The group took this to be a ‘satisfactory result’ and declared that ‘the majority of women municipal electors in the Borough did not desire the Parliamentary vote’.
Many people became alienated by the militant tactics used by the Women’s Social and Political Union. Local newspapers reveal moments of public anger towards the suffragettes. In November 1906, the crowd at the Guy Fawkes Carnival at Brockham cheered when the guy ‘which represented one of the suffragettes with a placard in front on which was inscribed Votes for Women’ caught fire.
On 4 June 1913, the most infamous event of the suffrage campaign occurred at the Epsom Derby. Emily Wilding Davison entered the track at Tattenham Corner and attempted to attach a ‘Votes for Women’ banner to the King’s horse, Anmer. Tragically Emily was trampled, suffering fatal injuries. She never regained consciousness and died in Epsom Cottage Hospital on 8 June.
That same night and unaware of Emily’s death, suffragettes Kitty Marion and Clara Elizabeth Giveen set fire to the grandstand at Hurst Park Racecourse, West Molesey. Kitty and Clara were arrested in Richmond two days later and tried in Guildford on 3 July. They were found guilty and sentenced to 3 years in Holloway Prison, where they immediately went on hunger strike and were released under the ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act, recuperating at a house in the Surrey Hills.
The suffragettes honoured Emily Wilding Davison’s ultimate sacrifice by accompanying her coffin on a procession through London and dedicated an entire issue of The Suffragette to her.
While the Women’s Social and Political Union was supporting the militancy of their members, their suffragist counterparts in the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) opposed the use of direct action. An advertisement was published in the Surrey Mirror and the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser in June 1913 stating that the NUWSS ‘disapprove of the sensational methods of militancy’.
Militant action continued into 1914, with the church in Chipstead targeted with a smoke bomb in June. This prompted other churches to take out insurance policies against suffragette activity. However, following the outbreak of war in August suffrage action was halted and Emmeline Pankhurst advised women to support the war effort by entering the workplace. The Surrey Advertiser reported ‘that the militant suffragettes had decided to refrain from their evil works’. In return the government declared an amnesty for suffragettes, pardoning any political offences that they had not already served time for. Apart from a small minority, suffragists and suffragettes alike rallied behind the war effort and turned their energies to the same goal.
The post Panel 9: Suffragettes in Surrey: the Ultimate Sacrifice appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.
By 1913 the suffragettes had stepped up their militancy from window-breaking to more extreme tactics such as arson and explosions. In Surrey, race courses, railway stations, cricket clubs, and golf courses were targeted. In that year alone Surrey Constabulary dealt with three suffragette bombs.
On the morning of 19 February 1913 a bomb exploded at the weekend golfing retreat being built for the Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George at Walton-on-the-Hill. There were no casualties as none of the workmen were on site but around £500 worth of damage was caused (nearly £55,000 in today’s money). Those responsible for planting the device were never identified. However copies of The Suffragette newspaper were found at the scene and Emmeline Pankhurst had spoken locally. Emmeline was arrested by the Dorking Division police and imprisoned for procuring and inciting women to commit offences contrary to the Malicious Injuries to Property Act, 1861.
In the early hours of 20 March 1913 an empty house in Englefield Green, belonging to Lady White was nearly totally destroyed by arson. Elsie Duval and Olive Beamish were later convicted and sentenced to six weeks in Holloway Prison where both women immediately began hunger strike. Under increasing pressure to resolve the situation while not letting a hunger-striking suffragette die in prison the government rushed through the Prisoners’ Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act. More commonly known as The ‘Cat and Mouse’ Act, this allowed for a prisoner’s release when they were weak and re-imprisonment when they had recovered. Elsie was the first person to be released under the Act.
During the night of 3 April 1913, a bomb exploded the gentlemen’s toilet at Oxted station causing minor damage. The police report names the identity of the suspects but the case was never solved. As a result of this incident all railway stations and tunnels were patrolled to prevent further attacks. Years later, Frida Kerry, wife of Harold Laski, a known activist and friend of the Pethick Lawrences, admitted responsibility for the bomb.Panel 3 – Suffragists in Surrey: The Peaceful Protest
The post Panel 8: Suffragettes in Surrey: Militancy Continues appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.
By 1908, the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) had been active for 5 years yet there had been little advance. Artist and Peaslake resident Marie Brackenbury captured the frustration in her cartoon ‘History Up To Date And More So By a Suffragette Pavement Artist’. The Liberal government continued to refuse women access to public meetings or meet with suffrage deputations, so the suffragettes turned to militancy. As the radical action increased so did their prison sentences. Marion Wallace Dunlop of Peaslake was the first to go on hunger strike in prison in 1909 and forcible feeding soon followed.
In 1911 a census of the population was due to be taken. The Women’s Freedom League (WFL) protested against this and many women defaced or refused to complete their census returns. WSPU members soon followed suit. One of those who defied the census by writing ‘No Vote, No Census’ across her return was Woking resident and WSPU supporter, Ethel Smyth. A successful composer, author and passionate sportswoman, Ethel had met and become enchanted by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1910. She suspended her musical career and for two years her uncompromising and energetic spirit fuelled the WSPU campaign.
Window smashing campaigns were organised by the WSPU against anti-suffrage MPs. Ethel taught Emmeline to throw stones in Hook Heath: ‘…I imagine Mrs Pankhurst had not played ball games in her youth, and the first stone flew backwards out of her hand, narrowly missing my dog.’ Ethel and Emmeline were arrested targeting Downing Street windows in March 1912. On the same protest Marie Brackenbury was arrested alongside her sister Georgiana and 71 year old mother, Hilda.
Ethel served five weeks of a two month sentence in Holloway Prison but perhaps her most enduring contribution to the cause was her rousing choral composition The March of the Women, published in 1911 and adopted as the WSPU anthem. An anecdote even recalls prisoners marching around the exercise compound singing The March of the Women whilst Ethel beat time with a toothbrush through her cell window.
Suffrage societies relied upon private donations and membership subscriptions and benefitted from publicity from the support of notable figures in society. In Surrey, the suffrage movement had a number of high profile supporters, including politicians and nobility representing both the peaceful National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) and militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) protest.
Thomas Cecil, 2nd Baron Farrer, MP and his wife Lady Evangeline (Eva) of Abinger were active suffragists. Lord Farrer regularly corresponded with supporters of the NUWSS, including Millicent Fawcett. In July 1910 Mrs Humphrey Ward, author and staunch anti-suffragist, wrote to The Times claiming that women did not want the vote, Lord Farrer replied on behalf of the women of Surrey that they very much did. On 2 May 1914, Catherine Marshall, honorary secretary to the NUWSS, wrote to Lady Farrer asking her to lend her influence to the cause by writing to peers to ensure they attended the reading of a Women’s Suffrage Bill at the House of Lords.
Frederick Pethick Lawrence, a barrister and later an MP and his wife Emmeline were pioneers of the suffragette movement providing much of the funding for the WSPU. They even paid bail for some of the suffragettes who were arrested including Ethel Smyth. The couple lived at The Mascot, South Holmwood (now The Dutch House), where they invited suffragettes to recuperate from imprisonment and forcible feeding. Frederick and Emmeline edited the Votes for Women newspaper, established in October 1907, and weekly suffrage meetings were held in Holmwood from 1906 to 1912. Emmeline was treasurer to the WSPU and is credited with devising the Union’s purple, white and green colour scheme. In 1912 Frederick and Emmeline were arrested, as leaders of the WSPU, for inciting a window-smashing campaign. The Mascot and its contents were seized by bailiffs in November 1912 to pay the Pethick Lawrences’ court costs following their prosecution but fellow WSPU members bought their furniture and returned it to them. Whilst imprisoned both Frederick and Emmeline went on hunger strike and were forcibly fed.
The post Panel 6: Leading Suffrage Supporters in Surrey: Peaceful vs Militant appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.
In 1913 the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) led a ‘Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage’ in which supporters from around the country marched in large numbers to demonstrate the level of support for the cause in a non-militant way. The Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire Federation of the NUWSS joined the South-Western and West of England Federations, following the route from Lands End to Hyde Park and gathering supporters along the way. Setting out on 18 June, they arrived in Hyde Park on 26 July for a mass rally where Millicent Fawcett addressed the crowd.
Suffragist Harriet Blessley of Portsmouth took the route from her home town, marching along the Portsmouth Road with her fellow pilgrims through Haslemere, Godalming and Guildford, carrying banners. They received mixed reactions along the route including cheers but also ridicule. In her diary, Harriet wrote of her journey through Guildford, ‘July 22nd… Big crowd. Tea at Suffrage Shop … march up hill with band to Market Place. Crowd laughs at us. Find these laughs very trying, especially when tired. Several men march with us, which is plucky, as they are ridiculed by the onlookers. Few cheers and waving of handkerchiefs’.With the arrival of the pilgrims, a public meeting was held in North Street, Guildford, on 22 July 1913. Haslemere suffragist, Dorothy Hunter, was one of the speakers. Dorothy was a successful ‘girl orator’ (public speaker) for the Liberal Party and considered ‘one of the foremost lady speakers of the day’ on free trade and the enfranchisement of women. The public meeting was thought to be the largest ever held in the town with a crowd numbering 8,000 people.
Suffragists were repeatedly faced with hostility during such peaceful demonstrations as they were often mistaken for militant suffragettes which fuelled rising tensions between the two factions. Harriet wrote ‘The old story – we are taken for militants. It is difficult to feel a holy pilgrim when one is called a brazen hussy’. The public meeting in Guildford caused so much heckling and disturbance that the speakers’ wagonette was nearly overturned and, fearing riot, police closed the meeting.
The post Panel 5: Suffragists in Surrey: the Great Pilgrimage appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.
The Guildford and District Women’s Suffrage Society was formed in 1910 following a local petition which gained 580 signatures supporting votes for women. In the first report of the society, membership stood at 51. Lady Roberts was listed as president, Noeline Baker as honorary secretary, and, amongst the male supporters, were vice-presidents Lord Farrer and Sir William Chance. The society occupied a shop on Guildford High Street from 1913 until 1919 – a prime position to showcase the cause and exploit every opportunity to promote the campaign.
A branch of the Central Society for Women’s Suffrage had been formed in Reigate by 1906 and by 1909 had affiliated to the NUWSS to become the Reigate, Redhill and District Society for Women’s Suffrage. Helena Auerbach, who lived at Hethersett, Reigate, was the president and chaired many meetings at Reigate Town Hall featuring speakers such as Millicent Fawcett, Ethel Snowden and local MP, Colonel Rawson. On two occasions members of the Society participated in marches to the Albert Hall in London, boarding specially arranged trains for the events – the first was on 13 June 1908 when over 10,000 women attended, and the second was on 17 June 1911 when numbers reached 40,000.
Helena served as treasurer of the NUWSS as well as on a national Jewish committee for women’s suffrage. Taking the cause to an international stage, she was a key speaker at suffrage meetings in France, Germany and South Africa. Helena later co-founded the Surrey County Federation of the Women’s Institute.
There were a number of other suffrage groups within the county. The Church League for Women’s Suffrage had a branch in Godalming by 1913 which counted Mrs Theodore Williams, chairman of the Women’s Local Government Society, as a member. The West Surrey branch of the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage was formed in January 1914. The chairman, Sir William Chance, was a key supporter and declared that it was ‘important the men should come forward to support actively the women in their great cause’.
The post Panel 4: Suffragists in Surrey: the Long Road to the Vote appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.
The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) advocated change through peaceful methods of protest. Campaigners felt that this more effectively demonstrated their ability to operate in the political sphere and used petitioning, public meetings and lobbying techniques to persuade Members of Parliament to debate the issue.
Helena Auerbach, president of the Reigate, Redhill and District Society for Women’s Suffrage, persistently wrote to the press decrying the violent tactics used by some groups for tarnishing the reputation of other pro-suffrage societies, claiming that ‘aggressive political coercion is as little suited to our sex as the exercise of physical force’.
In Compton, Mary Watts, founder of the Compton Potters’ Arts Guild and widow of the famous painter G. F. Watts, promoted the cause through her wide circle of friends. She was made president of the Godalming Branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1909, after writing a letter expressing her support. Mary not only attended high-profile suffrage meetings but also held them at her Surrey studio-home, where on one occasion she gave an impassioned speech declaring ‘a vote meant a voice’. In 1913 Mary Watts offered her husband’s famous allegorical painting Faith (1896) to be reproduced on the cover of the leading suffragist journal The Common Cause.Art provided a common bond and was used as a powerful tool of persuasion in the county. Joan Harvey Drew of Blackheath Village was a member of the Artists’ Suffrage League and designed postcards, posters and banners for the NUWSS. Garden designer Gertrude Jekyll designed a banner for the Godalming branch of the NUWSS of which she was a member.
The Women’s Freedom League (WFL) was formed in 1907 by members of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) who did not agree with Emmeline Pankhurst’s strategy. Led by Charlotte Despard and Teresa Billington-Greig, the WFL advocated direct action, such as passive resistance to taxation and a boycott of the 1911 census, but they did not condone attacks on property. In 1908 WFL member Muriel Matters led a caravan tour of the south east counties, including Surrey, and Wales to establish new WFL branches.
The post Panel 3: Suffragists in Surrey: the Peaceful Protest appeared first on Exploring Surrey's Past.
The Portable Antiquities Scheme doesn’t often record items from the last century, except when they turn out to be something quite special, or have considerable historic interest. One such item from Surrey which was recorded recently, is a rare example of an object which tells a story of the patriotic fervour and intense social pressures experienced on the home front during the early days of World War One.
This object, a copper alloy badge known as a “Willing” badge, was found by a metal detectorist at Send, near Woking. It was commissioned as part of a scheme set up by John St Loe Strachey, High Sheriff of Surrey in 1914, in order to support and encourage local men who wanted to join up, but who were turned down on the grounds of poor health or for not making the grade in terms of height or physical fitness. The badge was intended to be worn by those individuals to publically mark their desire to serve and to encourage them to continue to train and to ultimately try to enlist again at a later date. The need for this badge becomes particularly apparent when the social pressures and public shame heaped upon men not in uniform on the home front at the time is remembered.
As part of Surrey Heritage’s recent event on the occasion of the armistice centenary organised by the Great War in Surrey project, the badge was presented to Strachey’s current successor, Mr Jim Glover, by Andrew Jones, a representative from the metal detectorists club who has generously agreed to deposit the badge at the History Centre on a long term loan. This event was made possible thanks to the work of the Finds Liaison Officer, Heritage Conservation Team and Surrey Heritage who helped organise the event and secure the loan.
The Mayford History Society newsletter, for February 1976, contains a story submitted by Mr R Fowler Wright, which gives a fascinating candid insight into Dame Ethel’s life locally. The story is transcribed as follows:
‘When recording the lives of historical personages the little anecdotes which acquaintances love to tell about them re all too often ignored.
One of the amusing things I have heard about Dame Ethel Smyth, who, of course, lived at ‘Coign’, Hook Heath Road, opposite Fisher’s Hill, came to me from Mr Eric Bucksey, who was chairman of Woking Urban District Council in 1969-70. He was born in Vale Farm Road, Woking, and had one of his first jobs at Webb’s, the greengrocers, in Guildford Road, Woking, where Dame Ethel was wont to shop. One day, perhaps in 1938, when Eric was 17, she loaded herself with purchases before settling the bill, and rather than dismantling and restacking her collection, she ordered the greengrocer’s youngest assistant to put his hand in her pocket for money. But he was not accustomed to plunging his hand into ladies’ pockets, even if they were only four foot ten or thereabouts. Nor was the task made any easier by this square, stocky figure wearing a heavy tweed jacket and skirt that fitted pretty closely. In short, hew would not put his hand deep enough.
“Dig deeper, boy, deeper”, she commanded in her own deep voice, that would have done full justice to Land of Hope and Glory. And, unwillingly, deeper he had to dig. For those were the days when a greengrocer’s assistant could not be offhand about politeness and if a customer instructed him to search her pockets for money and take what he wanted for the till, he could not be uppish about it.
Quite different days indeed, for young Mr Bucksey worked from 8 to 6 on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 8-1 on Wednesday, 8-7 on Friday and 8-8 on Saturday, and he turned his hand to anything that was wanted: selling, buying, delivering, van driving, anything that would help to earn thirty bob a week.
But we have forgotten Dame Ethel. By the time she had settled her bill she had lost Pam [Pan], her Old English Sheepdog. Out into the street she stepped and called “Pam! Pam! Pam!” in a tone that made everyone turn around to see what was to do. Pam came trotting up from Victoria Arch and mistress and dog went unconcernedly on their way. And that, until the present, is an unrecorded glimpse of a historical personage.’
Ethel had a number of Old English Sheepdogs all called Pan (I, II or III). Pan III, the one most likely to be featured in Mr Bucksey’s incident, appears on the front cover of A Final Burning of Boats etc, published in 1928 (copy at Surrey History Centre).
I left Kassel to continue my education at Stoatley Rough School in England in April 1937. I did so because that is what my parents had decided, not because I wanted to leave Germany and home, but as soon as I got to Stoatley Rough I found that I loved it and it quickly became a new home.
My parents had taken me to Hamburg and after a teary farewell watched me board a train to Bremerhaven, where I boarded the “Hamburg”, a large German liner destined for New York with a stop at Southampton. Why this unusual route from Germany to England? I think it was because a German ship could be paid for with German money. Obtaining foreign money had become particularly expensive or impossible for Jews. Perhaps my ticket also included a passage all the way to New York for possible later use.
The first class passage on the “Hamburg” was uneventful. I debarked the next day at Southampton – and I was lost. At my German gymnasium I had had six years of Latin, four of French and only two years of English. I didn’t understand a word anybody said upon landing in Southampton, but somehow managed to find the train station and the London train that was scheduled to stop at my destination, Haslemere, Surrey.
At Haslemere I unloaded my baggage, including my violin in a new shockproof case, and managed to get a taxi to the School. Haslemere taxi drivers had learned by then that people with little or no English had to be taken to Stoatley Rough.
My taxi drove me up Farnham Lane, bordered by entrances – some of them quite grand – to English country houses. Few houses were actually visible from the street. Stoatley Rough turned out to be the last and largest place, at the end of the Lane. I remember being overwhelmed by the beauty of the wide open view from the terrace into a green valley and gentle rolling hills beyond. Below the terrace was a steep incline with flower beds nearby, trees, a lawn tennis court, a playing field further down and then more trees. The very best of English landscape! But even stronger in my memory was the pleasure I felt on being greeted so warmly and in German, probably by “Miss Astfalck”. Up until that moment I had been utterly confused and unhappy, not only because of my inability to communicate. People also looked and behaved quite differently from what I was used to and most turned away from me uncomprehendingly when I tried to say something to them. God, what a relief to be back in a comfortable German atmosphere. It was the beginning of a wonderful and formative association in my life.
The School had been founded in 1934 for German and Austrian refugee children. A large English country house with many acres of grounds, a lawn tennis court and a resident gardener to take care of the beautiful garden had been made available by an English Quaker family, the Vernons. Operating funds came from both Quaker – and in the most part – Jewish sources. Four German women educators were in charge. Two of them, Dr. Hilde Lion, the headmistress, and Dr. Emmy Wolff, were academicians and intellectuals, who had held leading positions in the German women’s and social work movements. They had lost their jobs because they were Jewish and had emigrated. The other two, Nore Astfalck and Hannah Nacken, came from similar backgrounds in the women’s movement and social work, but were more practically inclined. They were not Jewish, and voluntarily left Germany to take this job. As the idealistic but practical persons that they were, they understood that helping refugee children might be their most effective protest against what was then happening in Germany.
By 1937 there were perhaps 50 students, boys and girls, at the School. They ranged in age from four to the early twenties. Close to half were not assigned to academic studies, but were “household trainees”. They had to help run the school household, clean, work in the kitchen, mend clothes, function as teaching assistants etc. The idea was that they were being trained as eventual household helpers in the homes of wealthy families in whatever country might ultimately admit them permanently. Others, mainly boys, worked on a primitive farm with an agricultural teacher, to become farmers. The then prevailing notion was that the only future for most refugee children lay in practical, non-professional work. In retrospect, this was a well-intentioned but wrong-headed idea. Virtually none of us Stoatley Rough kids settled down as permanent farmers, household helpers or artisans, but many of them were, as a result, deprived of an education that would have been more useful in their later lives.
There were some English teachers and, of course, the very English gardener and a handyman, but everyone else at Stoatley Rough was German. English was the official language, but it was a strange English, not only heavily accented, but also full of phrases either literally translated from the German or a mixture of German and English “Ich will’s mal try”, for example, meaning “I’ll give it a try”; or “I am house today”, signifying that I have been assigned to the house cleaning detail for the day.
Upon arrival a student guide showed me through the house and took me to a room known as “The Tin”, where I met Klaus Zedner, with whom I was to share that room. What a great setup for two 16-year-old-boys! The room was at the end of a long corridor behind the kitchen and well away from everyone else. It also had its own entrance from the outside. One could slip in and out day and night, unobserved and without having to account to anybody. Over the next few days, as Klaus and I quickly became friends, he briefed me on all essential facts, such as food, teachers and other kids, particularly of course the girls.
In the first few minutes after arrival in The Tin I noticed a trap door in the ceiling. When I asked Klaus about it, it appeared that he had never taken note of it and knew nothing about it. I did not rest that first day until I had explored what lay behind it. It turned out to be a small room under the eaves, connected by a crawl space to the building’s attic. It struck me at once as a great potential hideout and partying space. It became just that soon after. We called it the “Klingsburg”, “Burg” being German for “castle”. The significance of “Klings” must have been great but is now lost in history. More about our “Klingsburg” later.
At some point shortly after my arrival I encountered Dr. Lion for the first time, and we had a private talk. No one had prepared me for her peculiar, nervous “hm’s” as she talked which, like most children on first impression, I thought were funny. But I liked her. I have no memory as to what we talked about, but it was the beginning of a very good rapport with her which lasted for as long as we knew each other. It also didn’t take long for me to find out that I was one of the favored, privileged ones. She was a strong, commanding woman, of considerable intellectual ability and a driving desire to succeed as well as do good. As time went on, she undertook enormous efforts to help my sister Lisel and myself. We were not the only ones. A good many students owe the beginning of their careers, and in many cases their lives, to her energy and efforts. Though her desire to do well by her students while they were studying as well as after graduation was dominant, she was unfortunately also able to make life hard for those whom she didn’t like for some reason or – more often – those whom she had wrongly pigeonholed as, say, potential farmers, or as not suited – or only suited – for academic work. Once one became classified in her mind, it was hard to break out even though the classification didn’t fit. Luckily, she had figured me right. I was able to do good academic work, but was also suited to practical life and to applying what I had learned to maximum advantage.
To some extent finances also entered into her calculus. Many thought it should not have to the extent it did, but the School functioned on a financial shoestring and it was her responsibility to make ends meet. Anyway, I was a paying student, because my parents could afford to deliver full tuition in England though this meant forfeiting to German chicanery almost ten times the actual monthly payments. Many other kids at the School were not so lucky.
Whatever the reasons, I was assigned to the academic program leading to Cambridge School Certificate, the certificate then of high school completion. If you did well in that examination, exemption from a further university matriculation test could also be won, known for short as “Matric”. However, being in the academic program by no means meant a Groton-type of boarding school life. My bed in The Tin consisted of a board suspended a few inches above the floor with only a very lumpy mattress between it and myself. Except for one or two classrooms, most teaching and studying took place in improvised settings around a round library table or dining room tables, or just sitting in chairs in a circle. In good weather, classes moved outside. In addition, we, like everyone else, had to help in the kitchen, do washing-ups, keep our rooms clean and make our beds, and assignment to many other practical “jobs”, as they were known.
Every now and then there was a “Workday”. That meant that no classes took place, everyone dressed in work clothes, and each person was assigned to a special detail: cleaning the house from top to bottom; preserving food for future use; repairing clothes; repairing and making needed furniture and fixtures; painting walls, etc. I remember being part of a team that produced a wooden bicycle rack one Workday, and stands calibrated for suspending a high-jump rope (no bars in those days) another time. Workdays were not something most of us moaned about. We liked them. It was fun to work as part of a team, to be free from academic work and to produce useful results. Those days added to the prevailing sense of camaraderie and, since the teachers also pitched in, it brought us closer to them and was a good way to get to know them better. Usually Workdays ended up with a better-than-ordinary meal and then sitting by one of the rare fires in the fireplace, talking and singing.
While Dr. Lion helped engineer my future, Miss-Astfalck-and-Miss-Nacken (a twosome that, as I soon understood, was more than the sum of one plus one) were the personalities that had the greatest influence on me over the next few years and, in many ways, helped shape me as a person. They created a new home for me, as for many others at Stoatley Rough. They were strict and expected much from us, but we knew also that they held themselves to even higher standards. Their sense of responsibility , their confidence that every problem, big or small, could be solved, their sense of fairness and their love of beauty, inspired us to emulate these qualities. Contrary to the headmistress, they could be relied on not to play favorites and, when the chips were down, they were our friends and our advocates.
Of course, there were also down sides to their regime. How can I ever forgive Miss Astfalck for making me get up day after day at an ungodly hour of the morning to go on “The Run”, a half hour of calisthenics out in the cold. Porridge for breakfast? Most of us had never seen or heard of such a thing. And it had to be eaten. I actually got to like it, but most of the other kids gagged on it. And then there were those enormous “washing ups” which left one’s hands shriveled for hours. But there were many more times when I personally experienced Astfalck/Nacken’s humanity, and willingness to bend the rules in ways that were important to a 16 year old. For example, though we maintained utter secrecy about the many “Night Walks” with others, particularly girls, deep down we sensed that Astfalck/Nacken knew and tolerated within limits this outlet for teenage energy and experimentation . Another example: Klaus and I had furnished our Klingsburg with various old mattresses and pillows and homemade decorations which had transformed this space into a comfortable nest for late night parties, mostly serious talkfests and opportunities to get to know other kids better. Eventually, Miss Astfalck, who missed nothing for long, found out about it. She raised some hell over the unauthorized disappearance of useful things, but she was also pleased with our inventiveness and decorating skills. When we offered a deal, namely that she would be invited to our next Klingsburg party, she accepted – and did come. The extra pleasure of secrecy was now gone, but a new, conspiratorial bond had been established with Miss Astfalck which felt good. It was the beginning of a friendship that lasted for the rest of her long and wonderfully productive life.
Academic work at Stoatley Rough fell into two distinct types in my memory. There was the teaching by those of German background, Dr. Wolff and Dr. Lion, and later Dr. Leven in music. It was comfortable, familiar and wholly understandable, and often inspiring. Then there was the teaching by English instructors. I remember mainly Miss Dove and Col. Hamilton – two opposites in personality and teaching style. Miss Dove was a gentle person in her early twenties, just recently out of teachers training. She never raised her voice but had lots of ways of looking at literature that had never even occurred to me. She was open-minded and did her best to stimulate our imagination. Col. Hamilton was a rigid former Army man of clipped speech, to whom mathematics was a given that one had to learn by heart, but never question. Ideas had nothing to do with it. Just read the book, listen and memorize. What these two so vastly different persons had in common in my memory was that neither realized how fractional our – or at least my – understanding then was of what they were saying. Miss Dove, like many English-speaking people, spoke in a very low voice with relatively little vocal emphasis. One had to listen carefully to each word. No German teacher ever talked that way. My ears were more attuned to listening for the typical pick up in volume to emphasize the important things.
That unaccustomed way of communicating, plus my lack of English vocabulary, often made it difficult for me to follow her thoughts. But I understood very soon that what she had to say was fascinating. I had never had a literature teacher who expressed ideas beyond those in the book and who invited and encouraged that kind of free thinking on our part and digging deep into meanings. The frustration came from my limited ability to understand and to express myself, though that improved in time.
In retrospect it is extraordinary how much of her teaching has stuck with me after all. King Lear, Macbeth and Twelfth Night are still the Shakespeare plays I know best, and the deeper understanding of their meaning which she gave us still resonates in my mind. She also exposed us to English poetry from the Oxford Book of English verse. To this day I remember fractions of Keats’ “Ode to a Grecian Urn”, scraps of Coleridge’s fantastic language of dream-like nonsense and quite a few others. Years later, when I went to City College in New York at night, her teaching, her approach to language and literature, were instrumental in enabling me to deal imaginatively with new material and gave me an understanding that was not only a source of pleasure to me but also resulted in the adequate grades that ultimately, after the War, helped get me into Harvard Law School – the true intellectual watershed in my life.
Col. Hamilton’s teaching, to the contrary, gave me no understanding whatsoever of the meaning and uses of mathematics, something I have greatly missed in later life, and still miss. He did, however, get me through Matric math with no trouble – a sad reflection, I am afraid, on the nature of the examination process at the time. He did also teach me examination-taking techniques based mainly on organization, outlining and memory – irrespective of real understanding – which, I must confess, have also stood me in very good stead at various crucial junctures.
What helped greatly was that my “class” for the most important subjects consisted of only two kids, myself and Barbara Gerstenberg, a girl from Berlin, about my age and from a similar background. In short, our classes were really private tutorials. This concentrated teacher-student relationship forced me never to let my attention lag, as often happened in larger classes when language problems made it hard to keep up. I was lucky once again, and Baerbel and I became close friends in that pressure cooker of one-on-two instruction. We have remained so to this day, though we manage to meet only rarely.
Of course there were many more subjects that we had to prepare for Matric, but I must confess I remember few of the teachers and the classes. We were going to be tested orally as well as in writing in French and German. German was a cinch for us, but preparing to take a French dictation, speaking French to the examiner and writing a French essay called a “précis” took much hard work. Then there was History, a subject I had loved in Germany. The European History portion therefore was relatively easy for me, but English History was another thing. We were supposed to concentrate on the period 1688 to 1914, but what German-trained boy had ever heard of Disraeli or all the kings called James and Charles? That also took hard work, as did English Literature. We were even going to be tested in Geography, a subject then important in all European schools. It was a struggle to bone up on all those subjects in order to take that darn examination in June 1938, only a little over a year after my arrival in England. Although I have good recollection only of Miss Dove’s small classes with Baerbel in English Literature and History, and Col. Hamilton in Math, the other teachers must also have done their job well, for I did pass the examination on first try. This was an examination given countrywide at the same time, and I seem to recall that a relatively small percentage of English students managed to pass all subjects the first time around.
Baerbel and I took our Matric at a large examination center, I believe in Guildford, the county seat. That must have been about June 1938. We had a long walk on each of the three days of the examination, down through the garden and then along a footpath, probably to a bus stop. Anyway, we were fond of each other and the long, un-chaperoned walks with her – sometimes even holding hands – made up for the dread of what lay at the end of each morning’s hike. I knew that Baerbel knew things ever so much better than I, and could manipulate her knowledge according to her own thoughts, while I was mainly stuffed with well-organized, memorized facts. Compared to her, I thought I should fail, but then, when I saw the English kids who also took the exam, I became more confident that I should be able to do as well as they. My passing that examination has made me suspicious of what that type of examination proves ever since. I not only passed, I made “Matric”.
I have many good memories of holiday celebrations at Stoatley Rough. They were warm, participatory events, with lots of home-made decorations and, sometimes, costumes. There was always good music, good even though it sometimes included me in the role of first violinist. I was never very good at it and abandoned my violin when I left Stoatley Rough – regretfully in retrospect. Six years of instruction and relentless pressure from my father to practice, practice, practice had failed to produce a musician. I remember special performances at Stoatley Rough when visitors came, like Alice Salomon or other old friends and associates of our seniors from the German social welfare and women’s movements. When Miss Fearon or Mrs Schwab came, English ladies on whom the financial security of the school heavily depended, I often had to put on a good suit and be one of the representatives of the student body for them to talk with.
Life at Stoatley Rough had its weird aspects. For example, we had virtually no money available to us, but our parents in Germany had lots. As a result, virtually every letter asked for things to be sent, odd things like a new watch band, ink for a fountain pen and even a new chain for my bicycle. and when the first chain did not fit, it was sent back to Germany for a replacement! Our parents in Germany functioned as our mail order house.
But I have got a year, a very eventful year, ahead of myself. In July 1937, only about three months after arrival at Stoatley Rough, summer vacations came and I, like many of the other kids, went back to Germany to spend 5-6 weeks with my parents in Kassel. The mere fact that our parents considered it natural to take us home for vacations shows how relatively normal and safe they still felt their life was. Yet this was only a couple of months prior to the nasty affair with the female Department Head in what used to be our business described in Chapter 1, which drove them out of Kassel in a hurry. Once again I traveled in style, first class on the liner “New York” from Southampton to Hamburg, and on the “Europa”, the fastest ship then, on my return. I remember the luxury of those journeys so clearly because they stood in such great contrast to the almost total lack of money, let alone luxury, we lived with in England. A Pound Sterling in those days was worth over $4, and to us it represented a huge sum seldom seen and rarely spent.
The Fall of 1937 was full of hard work, but also of the many pleasures Stoatley Rough offered. In addition to the music, there were plays, there was much intense human contact, student to student as well as with teachers; there were night walks, boys and girls, and many weekend hitchhiking trips exploring Southern England. The routine response to questions as to where we had been was “Beyond Liphook.” It was said with a smile and became our shorthand for hitchhiking. Hitchhiking was not officially sanctioned, but it was silently tolerated by Astfalck/Nacken. There were no safety concerns in those days, other than perhaps the threat of a car accident, and many of the English people who stopped were intrigued by us and our stories and often very nice to us. We saw a lot that was interesting on those day trips – generally we could not afford to stay overnight – and cherished the adventuresomeness of it.
At the time, we often said to ourselves that if and when we would have our own cars, we would always stop for hitchhikers and swore that we would never pass them by. We tried to adhere to that undertaking at first, but as our cars filled up with children and life on the road became more dangerous, we did it less and less. Martha’s Vineyard was an exception. We hitchhiked there ourselves, occasionally allowed the children to do so and we often still make pickups there, but only there. However, even now we feel a twinge of bad conscience whenever we pass a perfectly decent looking hitchhiker by on American roads.
Winter vacation 1937/8 was a big problem for the School. Many of the kids could not go home. Boys like me could go home but five weeks in Germany would not be good for our English. So Dr. Lion and others had to undertake enormous efforts making arrangements for us to spend time in English families. I was shipped to a very conservative family in Folkestone, on the Southern coast, for about a week. This is where I had my first real English breakfast, readied on the sideboard in the dining room by a maid, and everyone in the house could come in his own good time and help himself to scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, cornflakes, etc. In Germany breakfast wasn’t a meal. It generally consisted of a roll with butter and jam, and coffee for the grownups. I think it was also my first encounter with English tea sandwiches, those little triangles of soft white bread with a bit of cheese or cucumber in between. Other things were new. In Germany we were taught not ever to leave food on our plates; it was wasteful and impolite. Here, everybody left something. Scraping the plate clean seemed to imply that we hadn’t got enough. Those unimportant differences in usage, of which there were many, contributed to our feeling – and being looked upon as – “foreign”. The Folkestone stay included a big step forward in assimilation. Imagine: at night, the maid supplied a hot water bottle for my feet in my bed. After all, it was December and cold and wet, and there was no heating other than the fireplaces in every room. So everything felt damp: sheets, pajamas and the clothes you put on in the morning. It was an eye opener, in a way ununderstandable to me: here was an obviously well to do couple with a maid and two cars who lived with these, to us Germans, inconceivable inconveniences. But this was pre-war England, where central heating was considered “unhealthy” and cold houses, the pipes of which froze whenever the thermometer went below freezing, “good for you”. My hosts went out of their way to be nice to me. They must have volunteered to take a refugee kid for part of his holidays. I wonder how strange and frustrating they found their guest. On my part, I found the stay interesting and enlightening, but I could not really warm up to these strange people. I do not think I was the type of good guest they had hoped for and, I think in retrospect, were entitled to.
My next experience that Christmas vacation was similarly strange to me and, I am afraid, unrewarding to my very kind hosts. I had the privilege of being invited for the Christmas/New Year’s holidays to the Vernons, the people who owned Stoatley Rough, who lived in a beautiful townhouse in Hampstead. They were warm and kind to the foreign youngster with no home to go to for the holidays. But I, who had never heard of the magic of mistletoe, had never heard of stockings on the mantle or the type of thing one would find in them, had never seen a roasted turkey (only geese in Germany) nor had any understanding for what led grown people to wear funny paper hats at Christmas – of all times! – was utterly lost. It wasn’t the Menorah I missed. I would have gladly settled for “Silent Night, Holy Night”, for serious singing around the tree, for serious presents, not jokes. I was so lost, I kept disappearing in my room. The fact that Baerbel was there too helped some, but she was much more at ease than I. How the well-meaning Vernons must have despaired of me!
Then came the final weeks of that complicated winter vacation of 1937/38. I spent them with my parents in Berlin. Having been driven out of Kassel, fearing for my father’s life if they stayed, they felt relatively safe under cover of the big city’s anonymity. How much better it would have been if they had drawn the consequences of their latest Kassel experience, harsh as they were, and not settled elsewhere in Germany! But they did settle in a nice apartment on the Jenaer Strasse in Berlin-Wilmerdorf. Their mood and that of all their friends was quite depressed and emigration possibilities were a major topic of conversation but, as already mentioned in Chapter I, there was still no real sense of urgency. We met several times with my father’s Berlin lawyer, Joseph Kaskel who, because his clients included major American companies that required frequent trips abroad, including to the US, was considered particularly savvy in giving emigration advice. There was much focus on how to get money out of Germany. Some schemes required trust in Americans and other foreigners whose credentials seemed doubtful. Others involved straight illegality. Those took guts, for the penalty on being caught was death. My father’s closest friend, Ludwig Schoeneberg, had the guts to get much of his money illegally to Switzerland. He lived out his life in comfort in Geneva. Others had business connections abroad which allowed side deals making German money available to them in return for later Dollar credits abroad. My father was to the very end too law-abiding and too risk-averse to be doing any of these things. I believe that the fact that he did not manage any of this weighed quite heavily on his mind then, and for years thereafter.
On the whole, life was still too comfortable for people like my parents – and there were many – to act decisively on emigration. My parents could still, and did during this vacation, take me to Shakespeare plays in Berlin and to dinner in fancy restaurants. Nobody knew who we were. The time had not yet arrived when Jews had to wear the identifying Star of David on their clothes.
As mentioned previously, my sister Lisel had been at school on Monte San Vigilio in Italy since Easter 1935. But by the Fall of 1937 my sister wanted to leave. She had returned to Berlin before I got there on my winter vacation. At my parents’ request, I had tried during the Fall to get Dr. Lion interested in offering her a scholarship. The Germans would not give permission to pay for a second child in England. Dr. Lion, who had also come to Berlin for that vacation, had a long interview with Lisel. That interview changed her original adverse reaction to a positive “Yes”. Lisel consequently followed me to Stoatley Rough in February 1938. She, too, was assigned to the academic program. In fact, Dr. Lion clearly saw her capabilities and pushed her hard towards academic achievement. She took and passed Matric in 1939.
The Spring of 1938 is a blur in my mind of hard work for the forthcoming examination, much interaction with other boys and girls, and endless, long letters from and to my parents, worried about my future and theirs. I have recently found a folder of all my letters to my parents from 1937 to 1939. My mother kept them and considered them worth bringing along to America. They are fascinating as a reflection of the times, as well as my maturities and immaturities. Unfortunately, they are in German. Reading them recently has helped to refresh my memory in some ways and fix events in time. I began to urge emigration sooner rather than later; they saw all the obstacles and difficulties. South Africa, Argentina, Palestine and the U.S.A. were under primary consideration.
Sometime during that Spring the School allowed me to take my driver’s license. I had to drive for some months with a red “L” tied to the front and rear bumpers of the School’s small Austin, an open car with a rain roof and plastic side curtains when needed. Astfalck or Nacken, the only other drivers, had to be with me. Then I took my test in Guildford, including a U-turn on the steep High Street which I doubt would be tolerated today.
For some vacation round about this time I also went to North Wales under the auspices of some sort of back-to-nature organization. I remember Llandudno Castle, not much else.
Then came the successful Matric, except that it took from June to August 1938 to get the results. Baerbel left for America before we had our results. I sent her the congratulatory telegram to New York. We said a sad farewell. Her parents were already there, but their hard struggles in New York of which I had reported home were one of the many factors that slowed my parents’ resolve to follow. Her father had been a much bigger man in the German Department Store field than mine, CEO of one of the two largest German Department Store chains, and yet he reported living a miserable existence struggling for a foothold in America.
Throughout the late spring and on into the summer and fall of 1938, my future hung in the balance. Should I go on with schooling? University was not even considered; too expensive and, in any case, “the Jews should have learned from their German experience that being in business or the professions just leads to disaster. What we need is more Jewish carpenters, electricians, plumbers and farmers” – so went the refrain from my parents and many other advisors. Dr. Lion, though generally of the same frame of mind, thought differently in my case, as well as my sister’s. Accounting School somehow came up as a possible compromise. I spent much time in London and by mail investigating possibilities. I clearly did not want to become a plumber. In one letter to my parents I explained that though accounting school might be acceptable, I thought it was too confining and I would do better with the unlimited possibilities that I saw opening up from a general business course. On investigation, however, they were all too expensive for my frugal budget. Some sort of job during the day with evening classes seemed the best way out.
Dr. Lion to her credit – after all she was a headmistress not a vocational counselor – went to enormous trouble to help me find something. Ladies of the Jewish Council and other friends of the School were alerted and tried their best. I met with them, and even the son of Mrs. Schwab, the leading one of these ladies. The latter thought he could get me into the training program at Marks & Spencer. I had to write endless applications and present myself for interviews. There came wait after wait, and usually the possibility fizzled after weeks of hope. Thus the summer went by and the fateful Fall of 1938 dawned. I was still living at Stoatley Rough, making myself useful as a driver, a tutor and an Assistant Secretary to Dr. Lion. I had taught myself to type that summer. It wasn’t a bad life. I was still quite happy at Stoatley Rough, I knew everybody well and all the ins and outs of the place and its people, but of course this life had no future for me, as my parents preached in letter after letter.
Little did they – or for that matter, I – know that, in fact then and there the most important part of my future was taking shape. Herta Lewent was Hilde Lion’s secretary. She had come a few months after me and was about my age. She came as the School Secretary, and this was how Dr. Lion had her classified in her mind. Though at the same stage in life as those of us taking Matric, she was not allowed to participate in the academic program. It rightly upset her. We knew each other, of course, were friendly and had enjoyed playing tennis together, but in general our paths did not cross much until this post-Matric period when I had to find ways to make myself useful.
Herta’s parents had managed to get themselves into England as well in the summer of 1938. They settled to a modest but safe life in London. Herta’s younger brother, Helmut, came to Stoatley Rough, but at the much too tender age of 14 was assigned to the farm, to learn to become a farmer at the sacrifice of a broader and more rounded education. A grievous mistake.
Dr. Lion began to dictate to me, as well as Herta, and I took over when Herta had other things to do as School Secretary. Lion’s form of dictation usually consisted of simply outlining the substance of what was to be said and then leaving it to us to write the actual text. It was good training. But I also functioned as a handyman. I drove her and Dr. Wolf and Dr. Lewen. I fixed broken lights and phone wires. Herta’s office was tiny and it was no wonder that in those close quarters we got to know and appreciate each other very well.
At some time in the Fall or Winter of 1938, a rich Englishman, Mr. Schwelm, who had made a home and fortune in Argentina, got it in his head that he wanted to do something for refugee children. Through the Jewish Central Committee in London he was referred to Dr. Lion. His proposal: to take five to seven boys to Paris for a week. I was sent to interview with him. I did not particularly like him, but his proposition was irresistible: a week at the Hotel Vendôme, lots of sightseeing, all paid for by him. We went. I was the oldest and, so-to-speak, in charge, though Mr. Schwelm and his male secretary really ran the show. After the frugality of Stoatley Rough, the Vendôme, our private suites and dining room, were an incredible experience for all of us. We saw a lot of Paris. I had never been there and it was an idyllic introduction. I talked to Mr. Schwelm about my parents’ plight and their vain efforts to get into Argentina. He not only promised to help, but assured me it would be easy for him to get anybody into that country. He called me back many times to talk about all he could and would do for us. I never felt comfortable with him but his very personal interest in my life gave me hope. After we returned I tried to follow up, but he cut himself off. None of the promised things ever happened. In retrospect and knowing more about life than I did then, it seems to me possible that he was gay and had some sort of hopes of enjoying us boys, but to the best of my knowledge nothing overt ever happened. It was a weird, but for us boys quite wonderful, experience. I am surprised that Dr. Lion, who should have known enough to be suspicious, took the risk.
Cultural travel was in the air then. I remember another trip with some other students to Stratford on Avon. We traveled on a shoestring, but somehow the money was found for us to go to the theater several times. How much organizing and begging that must have taken!
All this took place against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating political situation in Europe. Hitler’s Germany knew no bounds to its expansionist ambitions. When Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, which Hitler had only a few months earlier undertaken not to do, England came to the brink of war, avoided at the last minute by Chamberlain’s Munich Pact with Hitler, promising “peace in our time”. It turned out to be but one year, an anything-but-peaceful one.
The coming War was in the air. Now, finally getting the Jews out of Germany took on the urgency it had lacked too long. My correspondence with my parents clearly reflects this change. But of course, with everyone suddenly feeling the same pressure, more and more doors closed. We had long been on the waiting list for a U.S. visa, but by now one could not even get into the U.S. Consulate to get an estimate as to how much longer the wait would be. It was a crucial question for those who saw some other, but less desirable possibilities. Should they take them or wait for America? Our correspondence is full of this sort of question. Argentina might be easier for older people, less pressure, less ruthlessness one thought; yet the U.S. offered more opportunity, particularly for the young people. Palestine, where my mother’s brother, the early Zionist, was a dentist in Jerusalem, was another possibility. The fact that the U.S. did not increase its German quota, or make exceptions for truly threatened refugees – that Roosevelt did not even request it from an isolationist-dominated and partly antisemitic Congress – is a shameful part of our history, as a result of which America cannot claim “clean hands” in the Holocaust tragedy. Though the unfathomable evil of the Holocaust was then unforeseeable, the very real threats to continued Jewish existence in Germany were by then obvious, and the threats to Jewish lives became clear after Kristallnacht in November 1938.
Meanwhile, Omi’s, my grandmother’s, continued life alone in Kassel with no possibility of visits from my mother had also become untenable. She, who was then over 70, was moved, first to Berlin and later – I do not know why – to Frankfurt. All those problems, too, were part of what I was expected to advise on by letter. Of course, everything was done by letter then. International calls were possible, but so complicated and expensive to make that they were reserved for emergencies. No e-mail or faxes. But: some things were a lot better then. Mail in England and Germany was delivered three times per weekday, even once on Sundays, letter boxes were emptied almost hourly, and one could rely on a letter between England and Germany getting to its destination the next day!
Which gets me back to Herta’s little secretarial office. Herta, at Dr Lion’s instigation but with very little supervision, had become engaged in a frantic, last-ditch effort to get Jewish children out of Germany. I helped her. We spent day after day together in her office writing letter after letter and receiving mostly frustrating but occasionally encouraging replies. Herta had, among other things, established a relationship by correspondence with a British vice-consul in Berlin who was prepared to stretch the rules and hastily issue visas to children so long as we could present some proof that they would not become a financial burden in England. This took much effort and imagination, the collaboration of many people, and endless volumes of correspondence necessitating many late afternoon drives to the Post Office in Haslemere. Gradually, Herta and I drew closer. There were night walks holding hands and, as time went on, she became the strongest magnet keeping me at Stoatley Rough. The political and professional uncertainties were there, but in a way they became a pretext; nurturing our relationship was the reality.
My first car accident occurred on one of those evening mail runs to the Post Office in Haslemere, pulling out of the parking space with inadequate caution. Could it be that my left arm around Herta Lewent’s shoulder had something to do with that – quite minor – collision?
We continued to work frantically on emigration cases, and I tried to make myself useful in other ways. I remember spending many hours constructing a bell connection between Dr. Lion’s bungalow and the main house. My feet were dangling from a trap door in the ceiling of Herta’s office as I spliced wires, with her tickling my feet from below while I tried to “thread a needle” up above. Strange, the things one remembers! Anyway, we worked hard and we had fun.
My sister’s best friend in Kassel, Liselotte Kaufmann, was still stuck in Kassel with her parents. Herta’s efforts managed to get her on one of the “Children’s Transports”, mass evacuations of children without parents to England, and Dr. Lion accepted her as a household helper at Stoatley Rough. Her parents never made it out in time. She, too, eventually came to the U.S. and we are still in touch with her.
A cousin of my mother, who much later lived near us in Cambridge, Kurt Grunbaum, had been an active and militant Social Democrat in Germany. He ran a printing plant in Kassel, inherited from his father, Max Grunbaum. He was arrested by the Nazis under some pretext, but eventually was able to slip out of Germany to England with not a penny to his name. His sister, Rosemarie Heymann née Gruenbaum, lived in England by then in cramped quarters. Though Kurt’s wife, Gertrude, and son were squeezed in, it was impossible to find a place for Kurt anywhere. Dr. Lion once again came to the rescue at our urging. She was instrumental in having a house on the Isle of Wight made available for just such refugees as Kurt, men without a roof over their heads, and she took the little son, Heinz, later Henry, in at Stoatley Rough for a few months. Her helpful tentacles reached far and wide. Even now as I am writing this we live only a few blocks from that self-same Henry Grunbaum.
Obviously, the influx at Stoatley Rough at this time was huge and we had long run out of space in the main house and the outbuildings created earlier. One of the large private houses on Farnham Lane became available and Dr. Lion decided to rent it. She let me do most of the negotiating of the lease of Thursley Copse, as the house was called, my first “legal” job. A young woman trained as an anthroposophical teacher, Thesi von Gierke, a relative of the previously mentioned, much revered Anna von Gierke, was put in charge of Thursley Copse, and I was moved down there as her assistant and jack-of-all-trades. The house filled with new kids almost over night. Who paid for all this, and for the teachers and food and clothes needed? Mostly the Jewish Refugee Committee, known as “Woburn House”, but also to a large extent Nore Astfalck’s genius at improvisation.
Then came Kristallnacht and the Nazi terror for the second time struck close to home. My mother was alone in Berlin; my father a prisoner in the Dachau concentration camp. My sister and I were advised of that by telegram from my mother. Now we exchanged letters several times a week. It was known that with connections and money it was possible to get these men, who had been part of the mass arrests right after Kristallnacht, released from concentration camp if, but only if, there was a guarantee that they could and would leave Germany promptly. Thus, all efforts had to be directed to obtaining a visa that guaranteed admission to another country – any country. My mother worked frantically to find a way out. She stood in endless lines at the American, Argentinean, South African and Palestinian consulates. She also tried hard for a visitor’s visa to England. Her dream was to visit Lisel and me on the way to any ultimate destination. A permanent English visa was out of the question then. The British had been much more generous than the U.S. in the early Nazi years, but it appears that by this time they had decided to stay with the refugees they had, including those admitted temporarily as all of us students had been , but not to admit more.
These were anxious weeks for my sister and me and for many other kids at the School in the same situation. We were powerless. My letters are full of well meant advice to my mother to keep her spirits up and to be optimistic. Except for the English transit visa, where we had to supply substantiating letters, we could do little of substance to help. It was frightening and frustrating.
In late 1938, as I have described earlier, my mother managed to turn our long-ago charitable “investment” in an orange grove of the Hanotaya Fund into a preference visa for Palestine – at that time a British protectorate and, with that in hand, got my father out of Dachau and themselves out of Germany – alive, but, at 54 and 49 years of age, robbed of any sense of security or belonging and virtually penniless. Yet they were lucky. Many parents of Stoatley Rough kids did not get out. Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Triblinka, Theresienstadt and the like were their then still unimaginable fate.
Through all of this I also had to stay in touch by letter and visits with all possibilities for a job for me or affordable training. One of the many threads I had been following resulted from my father having contacted an executive in the Gimbel Brothers department store organization in New York, a Mr. Arthur Kaufman, I believe, whom he remembered from some meeting of department store owners and executives years before. He must have asked for help for himself as well as for me. In early 1939, my following up on this lead resulted in my getting a job as a trainee in the London buying office of the Gimbel organization, smack in Oxford Circle. The pay was infinitesimal, but of course I learned something. We also looked on that job as a possible foot in the door for employment later in the United States. At that time Gimbel Brothers not only owned the second largest department stores in New York and Philadelphia, but also Saks Fifth Avenue and its sister store, Saks 34th Street.
So at long last I left Stoatley Rough, but only bodily and not in spirit. I returned almost every weekend to my “home”. That meant a long tube ride to the farthest southern outskirts of London and then hitchhiking on the A-3, the main London-Portsmouth road. Hitchhiking having become a way of life for us at Stoatley Rough, my weekend hitchhiking trips from London to Haslemere came naturally.
Life with little money in one tiny rented room on Pond Street in Hampstead – cold, unless I had shillings to put in the gas fire – was difficult. In my memory, I haven’t felt as cold again as in that London winter until the snowed-in foxholes of the Battle of the Bulge. But that was not the only source of discomfort. Stoatley Rough simply had not managed to make us feel at home in English surroundings. Even at that late date, I still felt very much the foreigner, and that feeling must have shown through, for English people also treated me very much as a foreigner and outsider.
Many years later I had lunch in Boston with Sir Hans Kornberg, the eminent English biologist, also a refugee. He told me that he, at age 11, after less than one year at Stoatley Rough, understood that he would never become “English” at this place and persuaded his guardian to transfer him to an English school. I had lacked that perception. More important, even if I had had it, I am sure I would not have acted on it, for nothing would have made me give up voluntarily the warmth, the feeling of comfort and home, that Stoatley Rough meant to me. As it turned out, I traded a lifelong German accent for a secure home at a crucial time in my development. I know now that I made the right choice, but that might not have been so if my life had taken a different course. All that matters here is to recall that those responsible for Stoatley Rough offered a valuable alternative for some of us refugee children – for better or for worse.
My job at Gimbel’s served as a pretty good, though mild, introduction to business life. I had to get there by Tube on time, do the work that was assigned to me, keep a 45 minute lunch hour and do my part for the rest of the work day, which ended at five and with a terribly overcrowded Tube ride home – unless I chose to stay in town. I saw Stoatley Rough friends and occasionally went to the movies. There was little money for the better entertainments of London. My work consisted mainly of very routine tasks, checking bills against orders, assuring confirmation of shipments, etc. They did not tax my brain but nobody in that office taxed their brains. There were about seven or eight of us. The real job, the buying, was done by buyers coming in from the States. We were a follow-up office and provided a base of operations for them. It was interesting to meet the American buyers. They were hard-driving, brash fellows, very demanding, but also curiously polite to us “underlings”. They seemed to be amused but not won over by the subservient attitudes of the English clerks. They insisted on kidding around with the latter, as if they were all on the same social level. Somehow that did not please my fellow Londoners; on the contrary, it made them quite uncomfortable. The differences were quite striking and interesting for me to watch and learn from.
But my heart was still at Stoatley Rough, and not just anywhere there, but very specifically with Herta. We had become very close. I often arrived at Haslemere late on Friday nights, would make my presence known by way of the window of the bedroom she shared with Inge Hamburger (later Pawlovsky), and then we would spend much of the rest of the evening and the weekend together. Our work on children’s emigration continued on those weekends.
My parents did get their transit visa to England on their way to Palestine. I spent time with them in London and at Stoatley Rough. My father, remembered as the resilient traveler, motor cycle rider, skier and business executive, had changed. He was depressed and enormously worried about his and our future. Though he also talked bravely about attacking that future energetically, I could tell that his heart wasn’t in it. My mother was so pleased to see us and to have all four of us together and out of danger, that she overcame the tribulations of emigration quite rapidly. They met Herta, of course, but nothing was said just then about our plans to make a life together. We were 18 and it seemed out of order to talk about it to them at that time. Planning ahead was just too difficult, though in our own minds we thought that we would somehow manage.
My father gave me a present on this occasion, a very large gold signet ring. He had it made in Germany by melting down a number of old German 20-Mark gold pieces which dated from pre-World War I and which had been given to me on the occasion of my Bar Mitzvah by one of my grandparents. The ring, worn by him as personal jewelry, had slipped by the inspections as they left Germany.. That ring much, much later provided the gold for the two “HL” cameo rings which Herta and I have worn since the first year of our marriage. More about that later.
In the midst of all of this upheaval, arrangements also had to be made to get our good old Omi, my maternal grandmother, out of Germany. She managed to get herself to Jerusalem, to her son Ludwig, the dentist. She lived with him for the rest of her life. She died in Jerusalem in the late 1940s.
Our parents went on to Palestine, where they rented an apartment in Tel Aviv and eventually even received the containers with their furniture and belongings. Much of that was sold for next to nothing, for Palestine was then overflowing with Biedermeyer furniture and other valuables brought by others in similar circumstances. Similarly, my fathers’s attempts to find a way to make a living were frustrated by the enormous competition from other refugees. They told us later that the job of a bus driver was then the most sought after and best paid, yet totally unattainable for recent arrivals. For more entrepreneurial jobs, there was no capital, though I also think that my father was simply not an entrepreneurial type. He had inherited a flourishing business from his father, the founder. He ran it successfully and grew it a lot, but he had never been challenged to create an economic enterprise from scratch, and he never did.
Meanwhile, war clouds gathered once again over Europe. The status of people like us, with German passports, in case of an English-German war was by no means assured. Once again worry and uncertainty about being alone in London if war should break out drew me ever more often and for longer periods to Haslemere, where life remained remarkably normal in midst of turmoil. Astfalck and Nacken in particular went out of their way to engage the worried students, many with parents still caught in Germany, and to help them overcome or live with their anxiety. They did so both by close and warm personal contacts and by making life at Stoatley Rough as challenging and involved, and as home-like as possible. Many of the kids owe their sanity to those two magnificent women. Yet these two women themselves had to deal with similar problems. They still had close relatives in Germany, would be totally cut off from them if war came and could not even be sure what England would do to them, non-Jewish Germans, in the event of war with Germany.
I was at Stoatley Rough when the declaration of War came as a response to Germany’s invasion of Poland. It was a fearful as well as exciting moment, one of those moments in life one never forgets. I was with Herta in her office when one of the smaller kids whom we did not particularly like brought us the news through the window, with the grin of the messenger pleased to have been the first. We hated him for that smirk.
What frantic activity followed that news! Much of the School had to be transformed virtually over night. Before dark, all windows in that huge house had to be blacked out so that after dark no light could be seen from outside. No car could be used until its headlights had been fitted with a cover that allowed only a small slit of light to show through. The cellar and downstairs had to be made ready to receive all inhabitants in case of an air raid alarm, which was expected momentarily. Many of the children had to come to terms with the fact that their families were now behind enemy lines, totally cut off from them. (Perhaps fortunately, extermination camps were as yet unheard of.) The responsibility for all these children must have weighed heavily on those in charge. All this had to be dealt with against the uncertainty concerning the future status in England of this entire conglomerate of people with German, i.e. “enemy”, passports in the most invasion threatened area south of London. And what if the Germans did come? Yet there was no panic. The frantic activity helped, as did the magnificent way in which all the grown ups and older pupils helped and supported each other and the younger ones.
The busy correspondence with my parents in Palestine continued throughout 1939. They were in touch with the U.S. Consulates in Berlin and Jerusalem, and I was in touch with the one in London. We all knew this was the time to get out of Europe and its environs if one possibly could, and we could, for in late November 1939 our precious U.S. visas came through, covering all four of us.
The time had come to say goodbye to Stoatley Rough, to many friends destined to live through the War in England, and of course to Herta. We promised to write to each other, and did we ever – over 200 letters in four and one-half years! It was a difficult farewell, but there were many like it all around us. Permanent – or at least indefinite – goodbyes were the sad order of the day.
As is obvious by now, Stoatley Rough has meant a lot to me. Some of our best friends also date back to Stoatley Rough days, notwithstanding the many new friends we have made in the course of a busy and involved life since we came to America. Herta and I are still very close to Inge Pawlovsky, Herta’s Stoatley Rough roommate. We still manage to see her regularly even though she lives near Paris. She and the Pachmayr twins, also Stoatley Rough friends, and I have skied together in Switzerland almost every year for over twenty years. And the old bonds never broke to others, like Ernst and Lily Wohlgemuth, both now dead, Peter Glucksmann, Edith Christoffel in Zurich and her brother Uli Hubacher and others. We stayed in very close touch with Nore Astfalck, our children also got to know her. We taped an Oral History of her life during a week together in the Black Forest and have had it typed. She and Hannah Nacken returned to Germany after the War to help rebuild, and they were once again incredibly productive. Unfortunately, Hannah Nacken died early, a great blow to Nore. The latter worked effectively and energetically until days before she died. She was the star at age 89 of the first Stoatley Rough reunion which we helped organize in 1990. She died a few months later.
The reunion itself was the outgrowth of correspondence with my old teacher, Miss Dove, who became Margaret Faulkner after marriage. She, like Nore Astfalck, became a personal friend of both Herta and me and we stayed in close contact with her and her husband in Dundee, Scotland. Her life was greatly influenced by having taught at a refugee school. She became a committed volunteer in numerous organizations caring for refugees and prisoners of conscience all over the world. She died within days of our last visit to her in 1997.
Lisel and I traveled to New York on the “Statendam”, a Dutch liner and by fortunate happenstance arrived in New York on the same day as our parents from Palestine. Like so many millions before us, we had not left Europe by free choice but entered America with great hopes for a new life.
The content of this page has been taken from a previous website. The content on the previous website came from many different sources and every effort has been made to respect copyright. If any content has not been credited correctly please contact us and we will add the relevant information. Please contact us if you wish to reuse any part of these webpages.
The content of this page has been taken from a previous website. The content on the previous website came from many different sources and every effort has been made to respect copyright. If any content has not been credited correctly please contact us and we will add the relevant information. Please contact us if you wish to reuse any part of these webpages.
The content of this page has been taken from a previous website. The content on the previous website came from many different sources and every effort has been made to respect copyright. If any content has not been credited correctly please contact us and we will add the relevant information. Please contact us if you wish to reuse any part of these webpages.</span
My darling and sadly missed Aunty Sybil once described my great-uncle Colin as a ‘bit of a rapscallion’. Isn’t ‘rapscallion’ a wonderful word? The dictionary defines it as “a disreputable person; rascal or rogue”. I feel this might be a little harsh for my great-uncle as, although I know very little about him, his claims to rascality seem to stem from his (allegedly) having something to do with the management of the theatre/concert hall at the end of Cleethorpes Pier!
Colin may also have been a performer as there are references in the Stage (available through the British Newspaper Archive which is free to access at Surrey History Centre) to a Colin Wood of 56 St Peter’s Avenue, Cleethorpes a ‘burlesque dancer’ wanting work. This sounds like my great-uncle as the address is correct, although it seems an unlikely profession for someone who was a former trawler skipper and hailed as a hero in the First World War for fighting off an attack by a German submarine. Oh well, we all do what we can and following the family business of fishing was a hard life.
We all have family stories in our armoury of genealogical sources and some we can take at face value while others may need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. Have you noticed that illegitimate children appearing in our family trees are invariably fathered by the Lord of the Manor or a member of the aristocracy? That one of our family may have dallied with the milkman or the second footman seems to be less likely (ahem!) whilst the suspicion of a bit of blue blood made the slight mis-judgement on the part of our great-great grandmother more forgivable to her contemporaries! I don’t think anyone now is the slightest bit bothered by the illegitimacy bit – but it is frustrating when we simply want to know who the father is!!
So – family stories! Do we believe them or not? Well, I think there is usually some truth in all family stories but perhaps not the whole truth. We may have been told that we had an ancestor who fought at the battle of Waterloo but perhaps it was simply that he fought in the Peninsular wars? Waterloo is the one battle everyone has heard of and it would be an easy form of family history shorthand to assign that particular ancestor to that battle.
This leads back to my great-uncle Colin! My mother (bless her, not the most reliable teller of family tales) told the story about Colin going to sea as a child with my great-grandfather, a trawler captain, and being (and I quote) “…shipwrecked on an island off Iceland where he was washed ashore, was rescued by the islanders and lived in an igloo for 2 years before being rescued and returned home to his mother, who fainted away when she saw him. Her hair had turned white overnight”. Incidentally, I think everyone has an ancestor whose hair turned white overnight – it seems to have been a fairly common phenomena!
In her slightly imperious way, mother commanded me to find out a bit more about this story. This being before the days of online newspapers, I accomplished by visiting the old British Newspaper Library in Colindale and ploughing through newspapers covering Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
I found the information – but yes, you guessed it – not quite as it had been relayed to me!
Firstly (and rather shockingly I felt at first) the reason the trawler had run aground was that my grandfather was drunk at the time and subsequently lost his Master’s Ticket for 3 months. I was less shocked at this when I found that being drunk in charge of a fishing trawler was a fairly common offence and many skippers were busted down and then re-stated after their 3 months suspension. However, more shocking than this was that the crew had scrambled to safety and then remembered that they had left Colin (only about 10 or 11 at the time) on the boat and had to return to fetch him!
Secondly, the ship wasn’t wrecked as such – merely stuck on an outcrop of land and was able to be re-floated and released after about a week. Presumably they had to wait for some type of tug or similar to pull them off at high tide (you can tell I don’t know a great deal about sea travel).
Thirdly, the crew were indeed offered very generous hospitality by the islanders – in houses (not sure where the igloo thing came from – possibly in my mother’s eyes anyone living further north than the Orkneys lived in igloos) for two weeks (not years!) and then sent on their merry (well hopefully not that merry) way again.
It seems more likely that my great-grandmother fainted away at the thought of what might have happened rather than what had actually happened and since she was a formidable individual, I suspect that she gave her husband what-for when she found out what happened. I imagine that 3 months suspension was probably the least of his worries!
So you can see how there was a grain of truth in that story – but just a grain. Over the years it had been added to, embroidered, sanitised and made just a little more exciting. However, evidently my great-uncle Colin never forgot the kindness of his hosts in Iceland and sent them Christmas cards every year.
The moral of this tale is to listen, enjoy and research those family stories but remember to keep an open mind and feet firmly on the genealogical floor!
PS: If you are a resident of Surrey you may well have heard that Surrey County Council has launched consultations on a range of services and wishes to hear the views of as many people as possible by Friday 4 January 2019 to help it to shape those services for the future and set a sustainable budget.
The Libraries and Cultural Services consultation includes the work done by Surrey Heritage (archives, archaeology and conservation). Your views are vitally important in determining the future direction of our service and we would really appreciate it if you would complete the short survey:
At present the proposal is to reduce the Cultural Services net expenditure on its Cultural Services (covering Libraries, Heritage, Surrey Arts, Adult Learning and Registration) from £8.7 million to £4 million over the next 2 years.
We would particularly draw your attention to questions 2.1 and 4.3 in the survey where there is space for you to express your views more fully on the county’s Heritage service and its future shape and role in meeting the Council’s priorities.
For further information about the Consultation on Council services, please go to:
Thank you for your support.
The Daily Routine
by Wolfgang E. Elston (formerly Edelstein)
Wolf arrived in Stoatley Rough at 1 am on a cold February night in 1939 accompanied by his 14 year old brother Gerd and a distant cousin who had met their boat at Southampton. He quickly adjusted to the daily routine.
“We were woken up at 7 am by the sounding of a gong and had 10 minutes to get ready for the ‘run’ to the second tennis court (where no tennis was ever played), on the hillside below the school. There Miss Astfalck led us in invigorating gymnastics. Then came a rush for the toilet and the sink – the singulars are deliberate. Stoatley Rough had once been a private home and there had been one indoor toilet for The Family (now used by women and girls) and another in an unheated annex behind the kitchen, for The Servants (now used by boys). Mercifully, boys were allowed to use the girl’s facility at night.
By 8 pm we were dressed and ready for breakfast (porridge, bread with butter or jam, tea); by 9 am, when classes began, we had cleared the tables, washed the dishes, made our beds, and swept our rooms. The rooms where we had eaten breakfast now became classrooms. Schooling was interrupted by a mid-morning break and snack. Before lunch ( a hot meal with dessert) the school assembled a 1 pm in the Sitting Room to hear announcements from Dr. Lion and a quotation recited by a self-conscious pupil in either English or German. I once quoted Luther’s “hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders” (“here I stand, I can do no other”), but Dr. Lion was not amused. After lunch, there was a short rest period devoted to reading, followed by ‘prep’, i.e. homework. After another mid-afternoon snack we were free or had organized sports until tea (supper) at 6 pm (a hot dish, “bread and scrape”, and of course tea). After tea, we were free until bed-times, which were staggered to give orderly use of the two bathrooms (in the literal sense, used for taking baths) assigned to boys and girls, respectively. At first, girls slept in rooms on the second floor and boys on the third, but when war came it was deemed safer to move girls to the ground floor and boys to the basement (still called “Schoolroom”).
Saturday mornings were dedicated to cleaning house and to tasks in the garden and on the small school farm, which occupied part of the valley below the school. Sunday breakfasts were luxurious, with corn flakes instead of porridge and exactly four chunks of tinned pineapple per person. Alas, when war came the pineapple disappeared, shortly to be followed by the corn flakes. For the rest of Sunday, we often took hikes across Hindhead Common to Gibbert Hill, the Devil’s Punch Bowl, the Golden Valley, and into the beautiful Surrey countryside beyond.
Everybody was given a housekeeping job: Laying tables or washing up (setting tables and doing dishes, in American usage) bringing milk from the farm, etc. My job was the hardest: I reported to the kitchen at 7.30 am to stir an enormous pot of porridge. Because the pot was almost as tall as I was, I had to stand on a tottering stool high above the stove. It took all my agility to stay on the stool and all my strength to manipulate the long stirring spoon. Woe unto me if the porridge was burnt or lumpy!” (Reminiscences, 1990)
Kitchen:O, what a charming scene!
So orderly and clean,
a sight which Mrs Beeton would admire.
No rice would dare to burn
No milk would dare to turn,
And nothing could go wrong with such a fire
Cooking, you say, was jolly fun
Before the rationing had begun,
When you could go and buy with ease
Onions and oranges, sugar and cheese.
But now you must puzzle and scratch your head,
And think of what you can use instead.
What wonder, if, in the best of places
The cooks have sometimes worried faces!
The School Run:
‘Wee, modest, crimson-tipped flower,
Thou met’st me in an evil hour” –
To wit, the hour of morning gym,
When, clad in costume neat and trim
Each pupil bends to touch his toes
Now right arm! Left arm! Down he goes.
The flower enters in with zest,
And bends and stretches with the rest.
But sometimes it may come about,
That everyone does not turn out;
Elastic snaps, and shirts hang down,
and here’s a yawn, and here’s a frown;
Some Kruschen salts are needed here,
And all the gym is rather queer.
There is more to learn at school
Than the Pythagorean rule,
And the way King Alfred put the Danes to flight,
And the adjectives and nouns,
And the most important towns –
You must also study how to be polite.
And for practice in this art
Three times daily we take part
And we sip our soup, and stir our tea together
With our table napkin spread
We correctly pass the bread,
And converse about the chickens and the weather
But when the teacher leaves her chair,
Oh horrors! What a sight is here!
Now no one thinks of etiquette,
And crumpled lies each serviette,
Just grab the bread and stuff and stuff –
No matter if you’ve had enough;
Tickle your neighbour – nay, ‘tis certain,
Now is the time to draw the curtain’.
Laundry:Here you see our kitchen folk
Learning how to scrub and soak;
One to mangle, two to wring,
Three to rinse – and all to sing!
Here’s a sock and here’s a shirt,
All the household’s weekly dirt,
But it is our fervent hope
That we shan’t run short of soap.
Is this the room we visited before,
With dirty water covering the floor?
And someone’s cotton dress
Is getting in a mess,
And can that be my Sunday pinafore?
There’s Martha sitting sipping cups of tea
Instead of being where she ought to be
And I’m terribly afraid
That one naughty little maid
Is poking someone else most saucily.
Why does everyone come
When it isn’t Visitor’s Day?
Why can’t some people learn
When it’s better to stop away?
Open and let her in;
“Please to take a chair!”
(Put on a charming grin)
Dr. Lion’s not there;
But I’ll just ring over and see
(Oh, no, no trouble at all)
If anyone else is free.
So glad you came to call!”
“Herta, Herta, find me my shoes!”
Will this skirt do? There’s no time to lose.
“What was her name?” “A Miss Salvadore.”
“I’m rather afraid she’s a Guarantor.
Tidy the table, and straighten the curtain;
The twentieth visitor she, that’s certain!”
To-day our choir will sing. Oh hark!
It must be Beethoven or Bach.
And see how sight and sound combine
To make the concert really fine.
Blue skirt, grey blazer, tie and blouse
Preserve the honour of the House.
And how do you think it came about
That all our choir were so well turned out!
Just come to the bedroom and use your eyes;
I’ll warrant you’ll get a big surprise.
“Who’s pinched my brush and comb?” “Oh gosh!
Why didn’t I send my blouse to the wash?”
“Can anyone lend me a safety pin?
My skirt’s too long, and it won’t tuck in”
Here’s a button missing; could somebody sew it?
“Are you joining the choir?” “Not if I know it!”
Cleanliness has always been
A principle on which we’re keen.
With sponge and soap each grimy place
We scrub and scour with speed and grace
But in reality, alas!
Quite differently it comes to pass,
And floors and walls and ceiling too
Will all be washed before we’re through.
The bathroom is the place for fun;
Let’s hope no damage will be done,
And nothing worse than mess and noise
(which everyone expects from boys)
Verses from a film text – 1941
LSE, Stoatley Rough School, file 4/4
The content of this page has been taken from a previous website. The content on the previous website came from many different sources and every effort has been made to respect copyright. If any content has not been credited correctly please contact us and we will add the relevant information. Please contact us if you wish to reuse any part of these webpages.</span
The war years brought new challenges for the school. On one level there was the school’s contribution to the war effort, both practical and economic. The school had in 1938 already offered to take English children (evacuees) in case of war. In September 1939, older pupils helped with the evacuation in Haslemere and the school itself took two young Greek-Cypriot evacuees, Chrisoulla and Johnie Oratis. In July 1940 the school took in seventeen evacuees from Bunce Court.
Other immediate effects of the war brought new problems for the school. Blackout curtains had to be provided for all the rooms in the main house and out buildings, which amounted to a considerable number of windows.
At the governors meeting in December, 1939, Dr. Lion reported:
‘Children and staff soon got used to slight alterations. After some experiments we can now manage quite well with all the children in the house and half-dim passages and staircases. A new job has been added to the long job list, hanging up and taking off curtains. Every night a curtain patrol checks up all the windows of the house, huts and bungalow’.
Gas masks were issued to every child and adult and everybody was issued with ration cards which were given up to the school’s secretary upon arrival at the school after each holiday break. At first there was little change in the food supply. Dr Lion reports: ‘The children only noticed the shortage of brown sugar’. “Digging for Victory” was as much a part of the school’s contribution to the war effort as it was for British nationals. The school’s farm and vegetable garden were cultivated in earnest to make the school self-sufficient. In 1939 the school was able to help the local community by sending surplus milk from their farm down to the Isolation Hospital.
The war impinged on everybody at the school. During the Blitz, there were air raid alarms almost every night for months; pupils and staff spent nearly every night in the cellars as the school lay directly under the flight path for both English and German planes.
Immediately after war was declared, the school experienced restrictions. Travel was limited to a five mile radius around the school. The school car was demobilised; the schools wireless sets were confiscated and everybody who had cameras had to give them up. Twenty-seven refugee pupils and staff from the school were examined at the Guildford Aliens’ Tribunal during the month of October 1939 and were place in category ‘C’. Upon passing the tribunals, these refugees were exempted from some restrictions and life at the school returned to relatively normal conditions, except that travel was still limited to a five mile radius and a curfew was placed upon all those residents over sixteen. Cameras were returned and the school was allowed to use the car. This changed again in April 1940, the end of the ‘phoney war’, with the invasion of Denmark, Norway, the Low Countries and France in early May, producing a sudden intensification of anti-alien feeling in Britain.
In May 1940 four refugee boys and two refugee girls resident at Stoatley Rough School were interned under the general directive covering category ‘B’. Two boys and the two girls were sent to internment on the Isle of Man, one boy was sent to the Aliens’ camp ‘B’, York and the other boy to Huyton, Liverpool. These children were interned because they had only just turned sixteen and had not appeared before a tribunal to establish their loyalty to Britain. Two of the girls and two of the boys were released from internment camp and returned to the school at the end of July 1940.
Kurt and Dieter were interned in May 1940. Kurt was transferred to Canada on 4 July 1940 without Dr. Lion’s knowledge. He was killed in an accident not long after arriving in Canada.
Much of the surrounding countryside became a prohibited area, when the RAF requisitioned and cordoned off areas of Hindhead Common and the Gibbet Hill with barbed wire. Gibbet Hill itself became an important RAF lookout containing radar, search-lights and anti-aircraft weapons.
VE Day celebrations at Stoatley Rough School when Miss Fearon bought everybody ice-cream.Home Reunions
The content of this page has been taken from a previous website. The content on the previous website came from many different sources and every effort has been made to respect copyright. If any content has not been credited correctly please contact us and we will add the relevant information. Please contact us if you wish to reuse any part of these webpages.