Alfred (Freddy) Stern

Freddy Stern was born on the 9th of June 1925 in Montabaur. He was the only son of Willy and Betty Stern and his father had a Leather Tanning business and was a dealer of leather. This had been the family business for many generations. Freddy’s maternal grandparents lived in Herborn, where his grandfather was the kosher butcher. Freddy and his parents lived an observant Jewish life: they went to the local synagogue and they kept a kosher home. Freddy’s father came from a big family and Freddy had many cousins in Montabaur.

 

He recalls that things became difficult for him at school and that he was not allowed to use the public swimming pools or sports facilities. Freddy left the local school and was sent to a Jewish school in Bad Nauheim. There, he experienced Kristallnacht, which was very traumatic. He finds it difficult to talk about this. He was in the fourth floor, when the school was set on fire. He recalls seeing the books and Thora scrolls burn. He managed to escape through a passage way and went to his grandparents in Herborn. He stressed that the situation for the Jews was better in Herborn. His parents experienced Kristallnacht in Montabaur, their shop was destroyed and the father was arrested and sent to Buchenwald. He was released after a couple of weeks (after he signed over the business) and joined Freddy and his mother in Herborn.  

 

Freddy received a place on the Kindertransport and he took a train from Siegen station to Hamburg and then boarded the SS Manhatten which sailed via LeHavre to Southhampton.   Freddy was taken to Liverpool Street Station and then to Cliftonville near Margate where he and other refugee children stayed in a school called Rowden Hall school. He contracted Scarlet Fever and spent one month in hospital, where he learnt English. After the war started, the school was dissolved, as it was in restricted area near the coast. Freddy joined his uncle and his family in Hampstead Garden suburb. His uncle had been an economist who had come to the UK in the mid thirties. The house received a direct hit and Freddy then moved to another uncle to Shrewsbury, where he did war work, repairing tanks.

 

After the war finished, Freddy joined his uncle in London (in Ossulton Way) and started taking courses in chemistry. He found out that his parents had perished in 1942 and this left a deep trauma for him. He never wanted to go back to Germany and has only once taken his children to Montabaur. Freddy met his Swiss born wife in 1947 and they married in 1952. He says that she saved him. They were married for almost 60 years and had two children, Gerald and Bettina. He worked first as a research chemist and then set up his own factory, ‘General Foam products’, employing more than 320 people.

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@ Refugee Voices 2019