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Eric Kaufman

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
July 1933 or 1934
British Passport
Mode of Arrival:

Eric Kaufman’s father had come to London from Düsseldorf to set up a business trading in grain and pulses in the City of London. He was interned on the Isle of Man in the First World War, but his wife and small son were repatriated. Eric experienced many of the upheavals of the Weimar Republic in Düsseldorf, especially the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. He was educated at the Prinz Georg Gynamasium and had a number of German friends, most of whom remained loyal to him. He experienced little antisemitism until 1932/33, when National Socialism spread and people whom he had not suspected of being Nazis emerged as such. As a British national by birth, he was able to emigrate to Britain in 1933, but his father, who was the target of a Nazi campaign for his firm’s alleged activities escaped with difficulty. 

The family settled in Golders Green and Eric’s father re-established his business. Eric worked with his father, but joined the Fire Service, in which he served throughout the war, experiencing the Blitz as a fireman. He became a great admirer of Churchill. He married a fellow refugee during the war, and lived in Goldhurst Terrace, NW6. After the war, he returned to his father’s firm, eventually taking it over in the 1960s with his younger brother. In the 1960s they also moved to Kingsbury. He has one son, who is currently Chairman of the Association of Jewish Refugees.

One day, a stranger came along and said, “Can you direct me to that and that street?” “Yes, certainly, but we’ll take you there.” So we got him there and he gave us, as reward, a bill for 100 million Marks. Next day we went to the local confectionery: “We’ve got 100 million Marks. What can you give us? How much of your shop?” He opened his little pot there, and he pulled out a little liquorice stick. That was all. Hyperinflation. And it was a very bad time for people.

In 1925 …I was very much already interested in the arts generally, in theatre, which was very cheap. The Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus under Dumont was quite outstanding. We had perhaps the best performance of Goethe’s Faust. Technically it was ahead of its time; people came from Berlin to visit it. As far as museums were concerned, modern German Expressionism was very much to the fore. Life was between ‘24 and ‘28 easy, and enjoyable, and fruitful and productive in every respect.

As to the anti-Nazi agitation or action, I got in touch with the League of Nations youth union and I addressed them in ’35 or so. And tried to put over what was happening in Germany. And I met a reaction which was total silence. They just didn’t understand what I was talking about. They thought I was coming from the moon.

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@ Refugee Voices 2020

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