Surrey as a place of refuge
On 27 January, Holocaust Memorial Day commemorates the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, through Nazi persecution and in subsequent genocides. We also remember those who were able to escape oppression and make a new life for themselves in this country.
Before, during and after the Second World War, some of the refugees who came to Britain found shelter in the homes, schools and hostels that opened in Surrey specifically to accommodate people escaping Nazi oppression. These refugees were helped by remarkable people (often themselves exiles) who had dedicated their lives to helping those who had suffered similar fates.
Stoatley Rough School
In Haslemere in 1934, a ‘German-English School’ (as it was first known) was founded by Dr Hilde Lion, a Jewish academic who had left Germany following Hitler’s rise to power. With the help of Bertha Bracey, general secretary of the German Emergency Committee of the Society of Friends, Dr Lion and her colleagues established the school at Stoatley Rough. The house, built by Arthur Leon, had been offered to the Quakers by his daughter Mrs Marjorie Vernon.
Initially the school catered mainly for Jewish children escaping Nazi persecution, and its first pupils were two small refugee boys and five older refugee girls. The separation of brothers from sisters was considered detrimental and so, by force of circumstances, the school operated as a co-educational establishment with a full age range. In March 1938, the school received an influx of refugee children from Austria following that 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’.
Rowledge House Hostel
Outside Farnham, a house in the village of Rowledge served as a Jewish hostel for evacuee, refugee and Kindertransport children from 1942 to 1945. Rowledge House Hostel was run by Bachad members, Shalom and Edie Marcovitch (Ma’agan), and its existence was recently discovered by Mark Westcott when he visited Surrey History Centre to research his childhood home. A handwritten journal amongst parish records referred to the house being sold in 1942 to a Farnham Syndicate who let it to a Jewish Association for evacuated children. In October 2012, to commemorate the hostel, Mr Westcott erected a plaque which was unveiled by Hannah Nyman, a Kindertransport child who, along with her brother, had lived in the house with 30 other children.
Weir Courtney, Lingfield
In August 1945, some 300 young Holocaust survivors were flown to Britain, arriving at Crosby-on-Eden airfield in the middle of the night. Some of the younger children were later taken to Weir Courtney in Lingfield, offered by its owners, Sir Benjamin and Lady Drage, until a more permanent home could be found. From 1946 to 1950, Weir Courtney housed 24 children who were cared for by Alice Goldberger and her staff, with financial support from West London Synagogue. Refugee Alice Goldberger, whose own family had perished in concentration camps, was a childcare expert who had worked for Anna Freud’s War Nurseries. Many of the children attended local schools, and their names appear in local school registers held at Surrey History Centre.
In the 1940s, many Jewish communities in Surrey predictably increased in size with the arrival of refugees and, later, Holocaust survivors. In Guildford, the United Synagogue Membership Group was formed with the Rev S Clayman as spiritual leader. Prior to the outbreak of war, refugee and member of the Liberal Neue Synagogue in Berlin, Rabbi Malvin (Malwin) Warschauer had settled in Woking. Along with his son, Julius (a local aid committee member), he provided pastoral and religious support to both the Jewish and non-Jewish refugee communities in Guildford and surrounding areas.
For more information about the Surrey people and places that offered shelter, please see the Refugee theme pages on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website and refer to the archive and library holdings listed below.
Surrey History Centre Archives
Item ref. 7155/5/13/10: correspondence with Dr Margot Kogut regarding reunion of former Stoatley Rough pupils and unveiling of plaque at Quartermaine, 10 Nov 1990. Also letter from former pupil researching history of school, 1990-1992.
Item ref. 8666/1: Dormansland Council Junior, Mixed and Infants School, admission register, 1939-1952. Includes Jewish children from concentration camps staying at Weir Courtney Hostel, Lingfield, 1947.
Collection ref. 9086: the Bachad Hostel for Jewish refugee children at Rowledge House, School Road, Rowledge (1942-1945): film footage and papers relating to the unveiling of a commemorative plaque, 2012.
Item ref. Z/448/1a: Weir Courtney, Lingfield: copy photograph of orphaned Jewish children in the garden at Weir Courtney (Z/448/1a), c.1946
Collection ref. Z/560: Stoatley Rough School, Haslemere: catalogue and commemorative items, 2004-2009. Includes DVD of reunion of former pupils of Stoatley Rough, 2004.
Janet H Bateson, Around Lingfield at war (2010) – contains a chapter on Weir Courtney.
Bertha Leverton, I came alone: the stories of the Kindertransports (1990).
Hans F Loeser, Hans’s story (2007) – Stoatley Rough School.
Gilbert, Martin, The boys: the untold story of 732 young concentration camp survivors (1997).
Sarah Moskovitz, Love despite hate: child survivors of the Holocaust and their adult lives (1983) – Weir Courtney.
William D. Rubinstein (ed), The Palgrave dictionary of Anglo-Jewish history (2010).
Barbara Wolfenden, Little Holocaust Survivors; and the English school that saved them (2008) – Stoatley Rough School.
Links to external websites
(click a link to visit the website)
The Wiener Holocaust Library website (one of the world’s leading and most extensive archives on the Holocaust and Nazi era)