Soham Grammarians - Herman Kon, Evacuee

[Editor: For the background to Herman Kon's arrival in England see History > Wartime News > Spring 1943 ... Poles in Germany]

I was evacuated with the JFS (Jews Free School) and lived in a hostel with all refugee boys at 37 St Mary’s Street, Ely. We were under the charge of Mr Bernstein (Headmaster of JFS) but after a short time the running of the hostel was taken over by my parents, Rabbi and Mrs A Kon.

I was enrolled in SGS in 1940 [Ed: he did not reach the Salvete pages of the Soham Grammarian until Summer 1941] and the fee was 3 guineas. The Headmaster was Mr Stubbs (with the unfortunate initials of S.S.). The Second Master was Mr LG Johnson who lived in Ely. He cycled to Soham daily, the boys went by bus [Ed: he usually left his bike at the Walbros shop in Ely].

I started school knowing hardly any English. Mr Johnson taught me English and I taught him German. After a short time, I came top in English and the teacher told the class “It takes a bloody foreigner to teach you your language”.

I did well in all subjects and passed my “School Certificate Exam” with Matriculation Exemption. I was made House Captain of Hereward House.

I was very good at sports and was made captain of our rugby team. I excelled in the 100 and 200 yards and long jump and was asked to represent the school in inter-school sports which were all held on Saturdays. Being an observant Jew, I had to refuse. I was told “You will not have to travel on your Sabbath as we will put you up in a hotel – all you have to do is run”. Regrettably I had to refuse.

I was excused from attending morning assembly, but helped Mr Crouch the Art and Music teacher by turning the pages when he played the piano for the hymns. Very occasionally I did the accompaniment.

My time at SGS was very happy and I did not experience any ‘anti-semitism’.

I remember vividly that in the 6th form we had a new teacher [Ed: Miss Lawson?]. She came to us straight from college and she was a real ‘dollybird’! Nevertheless, we all respected her – not like today!

The hostel at 37 St Mary’s Street where they lived, "my father is the rather serious looking young man
at the back of the table on the left next to the candle and the matron. His parents are the other two adults."
via Michele Stern

H Kon: School Certificate 1945. First XV Rugby. Captain of Hereward House.

Above, Ruth and Herman Kon celebrating their Diamond Wedding Anniversary in January 2010: image Jewish Chronicle on-line.
After the war Herman settled in London, married Ruth, had a daughter (Michele) and a son (Jeremy).
There are seven grandchildren and now "many lovely great grandchildren".

Herman died in 2019.

with thanks to Michele Stern née Kon
page created 19 Sep 10: updated 20 Sep 19