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Stefan Ruff

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
12 December 1938
Interview number:


Lee Comer

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Stefan Ruff was an only child, of older parents who moved from Czernowitz, Romania to Vienna where he was born and brought up. His father was a pharmacist. He came to Britain on a Kindertransport in December 1938, aged 13, and was able to complete his education and attend university in Glasgow. He did not experience any overt antisemitism in Vienna and still feels, deep down, that he is Viennese rather than British. He had positive experiences with foster-parents and also when living in a hostel in Scotland. His parents escaped to Shanghai and came to join him in Scotland after the war. His father died in the early 1950s and his mother returned to Vienna, where she lived for 25 years until her death in 1978. He has had a successful professional life as a research chemist and in management, has been married twice, with three children from his first marriage, and now lives in retirement with his second wife in York. 


Full Interview


I can still remember when the Anschluss was about to happen, I remember I cried like nobody’s business because Austria was about to be invaded by Germany. I mean, it was nothing to do with being Jewish; it was all about being Austrian.

I was a little distressed [in the Jewish old person's home in Walton-on-the-Naze where he was housed after the Kindertransport]. The great aim was to get a family to take you into their home. Nobody ever showed any interest in me. I was most upset. I thought ‘Why don’t they’? From there we were shipped to another refugee camp: Clayton House, near Ipswich. My father placed an advert in the British pharmaceutical press before they went to Shanghai, March of 1939, asking if anybody would want me. A pharmacist in Glasgow volunteered, a Christian family. I stayed with that family. But, at that time, school-leaving age was 14. The thought of me going to school after 14 or even going to university never entered their head. As far as they were concerned, I was 14, I didn’t need to go to school, I needed to find somewhere to work. I was a fairly badly behaved child, not very good.They were Christians anyway, so in the end, after about 2 or 3 months, they went to the Jewish community in Glasgow & said ‘For God’s sake, take this bastard away!’ You know, to put it bluntly, I think. I was 14 & a bit stroppy.

Luckily for me—this is how I never plan anything, it always works out alright—luckily for me there was a family in Kirkcudbright called Sassoon. David Sassoon, an artist. They had a seaside hut on Carrick Shore. They were offering holidays to refugee children in this hut. The Jewish community put me there. It was absolutely idyllic, one of the happiest holidays I can remember. Other refugee boys were there. I’m still in touch with them. I got back to Glasgow & the Jewish community was running a hostel for refugees in Hill Street. I was put there. But war started on September 3rd. A group of us were sent to a farm in Perthshire. Then we were taken off that farm & put onto a smallholding. Lovely place, a Mrs Campbell, a village called Glencarse. In the summer holidays I worked on a pig farm, taught me a lot about pigs. Then the Jewish community in Glasgow opened a Jewish evacuation hostel for Jewish children in Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire, & I was shipped there. Went to Castle Douglas High School for my 3rd year at school & then Kirkcudbright Academy for my 4th & 5th. I didn’t have parents who'd gone to war. I was being looked after, we had plenty to eat, we had no problems. Money wasn’t a problem, everything was done for us. It was alright, fine.

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