Pupils at St Mary’s School were given real insight to their project on refugees by former pupil Ernst Michaelis.
Ernst was a German Jew who fled the war in Germany on the 10th August 1939 as part of the “Kindertransport”.
It was arranged for Ernst to come to St Mary’s which at the time was a boarding school for children with disabilities but had a history of giving places to children without disabilities and altogether took in Ernst and four girls who were also refugees.
Ernst is celebrating his 90th birthday this year and will be holding his party at St Mary’s.
The Performing Arts students, working on their end of term production, Refuge St Mary’s, were very interested in learning Ernst’s story and over past weeks have been asking him questions via email.
Recently the whole Trust was able to speak to Ernst and ask him questions via the magic of Skype. He joined them in the assembly hall where they asked him lots of questions and were stunned and moved by his story and enthusiasm.
Wendy Maylam, from the school, said: “He spoke about his life in Germany and at St Mary’s.
“When he left Germany he could only bring one suitcase so the pupils were asked to think what they would pack if they could only have a suitcase of possessions.
“This part of his story has made it’s way into homework and is an element of the end of term show, Refuge St Mary’s.
“The children feel a real bond with him. Ernst really enjoyed speaking to the pupils and looks forward to meeting them later in the year.
“Ernst met his wife Anne here at St Mary’s who was a student teacher and they married in 1960, living a long and happy life together having two children.
“Ernst was once a governor of St Mary’s and has also been a generous supporter of the school contributing to the new ICT suite which is named after him.
“The young people also listened to the story of Sarah Sleath who is now head of care at the Trust but was able to talk to them about her experiences of escaping Uganda.
“She spoke to the children of hiding from soldiers, preferring to pay to go to school than spend money on food and her horror when she realised that English children eat a lot of fast food and throw food away. This is also an element in the show.”
Kindertransport (Children’s Transport) was the informal name of a series of rescue efforts which brought thousands of refugee Jewish children to Great Britain from Nazi Germany between 1938 and 1940, saving 10,000 children.
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