The copyright of all photographs belongs to individual interviewees. Please get in touch for more information

Ernst Sondheimer

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
September 1936

Interview Summary:

Ernst Sondheimer was born 1923 in Stuttgart. His grandparents lived in smaller villages, Oberdorf (running a chemical factory making glue) and Wertheim am Main, where is grandfather Adolf Oppenheimer ran the local bank. Ernst left in 1936 to come to an English school (Hayley School) in Bournemouth, arranged by Mrs. Franklin Cohn. His parents followed in 1937. His father had opened a firm called Sondal Glues. They settled in Highgate in 1938 and Ernst received a small scholarship to attend University College School. They evacuated to Letchworth. In early December 1941 he was accepted to study Chemistry and Physics in Cambridge. While in Cambridge his colleagues were called up to work on a project connected with the Atomic bomb on uranium isotope separation in Canada. As he was not a British national, he stayed in Cambridge and continued his studies and started to do war work under John Rendall. As a physicist he was part of a protected profession and hence not interned. He continued to study under Alan Wilson and received his PhD at Cambridge. He was offered a lectureship at Imperial College in London in 1951 and then became reader in Applied Mathematics in Queen Mary College and later professor of Mathematics at Westfield College in Hampstead, retiring in 1982. 

[On becoming a refugee] Obviously it had a big impact, didn’t it because I am British and not German. What would have happened to me if we had stayed in Germany, is only too clear. So I have lived to eighty-two, instead of finishing in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. There is very little doubt that that’s what would have happened. There are some who survived, but not many.


@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

Made by BookJaw