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Benno Stern

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
September 1938 (?)
Interview number:


Dr Bea Lewkowicz

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Benno Stern was born in 1935 in Essen, where his parents owned a wholesale business with material for men suits. His parents had come from Poland to Germany and were stateless. They lived in the Hachestrasse, near the main railway station. Benno does only remember fragments from Essen. They lived a very observant Jewish live. He does remember vaguely his journey to the UK, where he was one of the few people who did not get ill on the boat. His mother had an uncle in Ealing who had arranged the family’s emigration. He travelled with his father and older sister to the UK, while his mother travelled one week later. The SS came looking for his father and threatened to arrest his mother.  The family settled in Ealing and Benno started going to a local primary school. Benno stayed throughout the war in London, while his sister was evacuated. Due to a raptured appendix, he almost spent a year in hospital in 1943. His parents opened the Parisian Dressmaking Company in London while he studied to become a dentist. He married in 1958, settled in Northwood and had two children. He had his own dental practice in Hayes for more than 40 years. He has visited his former home in Essen and now lives in Bushey Heath with his wife.    


Full Interview


Well we left Hachestraße [ in Essen] at - at dawn. Light was just breaking. And I remember that I had a particular blanket, which I see in retrospect was a comforter. Comforter blanket. The station was immediately opposite our flat, so we had a very, very short walk. The train journey is vague, but I remember …coming over on the ferry. And I was one of the few people who was not sick. The sea was rough and I saw everyone else being sick and I couldn’t understand why.

No, when I was young I didn’t like Benno very much; in fact, I didn’t like it at all. And I used to call myself Benny. And a lot of my friends still call me Benny, but as I’ve grown older I rather like Benno. So I, a lot of friends call me Benno as well. Benno is very good because very few people have got the name Benno in England. And it means I don’t get mixed up with other people.

I remember Victory in Europe Day when there were huge celebrations. Yes, it was, as if we were an English family really. Although, being Jews we were always somewhat remote.

I don’t hold any…particular animosity against the current group of Germans. When I see an older German I thought “What did you do with the war?” But mostly of course they were children. Real children. Just like I was.

My father, by a great stroke of fortune, was made stateless by Poland because he’d fled the country. In Germany, he was stateless; he never took German citizenship. When Germany sent Polish Jews back to Poland he was not sent back, because he was stateless. In England, my father wasn't interned in the Isle of Wight because he was stateless. It worked to our advantage.

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