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Description

This audio clip is from an interview with George Schoenmann, recorded by Jewish History Association of South Wales/Cymdeithas Hanes Iddewig De Cymru (JHASW/CHIDC) in September 2018. In the clip, George talks about having been bullied at Eglwys Newydd Primary School (located on Glan-y-Nant Road in Cardiff) due to his Austrian origins.

George Schoenmann – a short biography.

George Schoenmann was born in Vienna in 1934. George’s father, Paul, a prolific businessman, had owned a cigarette paper factory in Vienna but after the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany on 12 March 1938) the Nazis confiscated all Jewish businesses in Austria. Paul received permission to set up General Paper & Box Manufacturing Company on the Treforest Industrial Estate in 1938; the family came to Wales as refugees in 1939 and moved to Whitchurch, Cardiff.

The company specialised in two areas: luxury cardboard boxes and cigarette paper. The boxes were assembled by hand in the factory. During the war, it also made tools for the Ministry of Defence.

Rizla bought the company in 1948 and Paul was forced out in 1951. He subsequently started a furniture company in Bridgend.

George attended school in Brecon and after the war worked for many of the Jewish businesses at Treforest, as well as his father’s furniture company. He set up his own company selling electrical spare parts in 1979, before retiring aged 70.

Transcript

I went to the state school and that didn’t work out very well ‘cos I was—I couldn’t speak English. And I was teased mercilessly. You know, they would call me names: ‘Jerry’ was the favourite one, ‘cos of course the war had just started. And they would run around pretending to be aeroplanes, as little children did in those days, with arms outstretched [laughs], making noises and I was always the, the Messerschmitt which got shot at. Anyway, it was, it wasn’t very pleasant and the fact that I couldn’t speak a word of English of course and no effort was really made to include me in the lessons. So, every day at breaktime, at ten o’clock, I sneaked out through the gate and ran home [laughs]. And this, this went on for three or four months apparently until—well, nobody missed me for a start, but I was caught by, by my father’s sister, my aunt, who came to visit my mother unexpectedly and found me sitting on the railway bank and watching the trains! And of course, she told my mother and that was the first intimation that my mother had that something had gone wrong at school.

Sources.

- Jewish History Association of South Wales/Cymdeithas Hanes Iddewig De Cymru, Oral history interview with George Schoenmann (20 September 2018)
- ‘End of an era for Rizla factory’, in WalesOnline [accessed 11 May 2022].

Depository: Screen & Sound Archive, The National Library of Wales.

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