Sidney describes the kindness of his new family – the Goldwaters. He talks about his early working life and his views on the Nazis.
INT: They were lucky. So tell me about Scotland. What were your first impressions when you arrived?
SM: When I came to Glasgow? Well, I was never in a big city before and it impressed me very much. I noticed there were a lot of picture houses which I’d never…I’d been to the cinema once in my life in Germany. And when I came here, after about two days, I got homesick. And Mr Goldwater took me to the pictures every day. He was a bookmaker and he worked mostly in the evenings so he was free during the day and we used to go to the cinema and that’s where I learned quite a lot of my English, at the cinema. And then I went to school in February.
I went to Langside Primary School in Tantallon Road and I was there until the holiday time and then the barrage balloons were put in the playground and we got schooling in different houses… every day in a different house. And when it came to August I asked the headmaster if I could leave because I was almost 14 and he said ‘yes’, I could leave. I then left and got a job in Gerber Brothers as a message boy. And I worked there until Mr Goldwater opened up, he had a tool shop in Saltmarket, and he opened up another one, a bigger one in Saltmarket and I went and worked and ran that shop until after the war. And he had a son and a daughter. The son..when, he came back from the army, he then came into the shop and we didn’t, agree with each other. And I then got a van and started selling tools all round Scotland and the north of England [which continued] until I got married and then I went into the clothing industry. I opened up a factory with my brother-in-law then and we manufactured raincoats.
INT: Did you have any previous training in making things?
SM: Well I did the selling. And I learned the trade slowly while I was there.
SM: I was never a qualified machinist or a cutter but I could do it. And eventually that business was bought over by a public company called Edward MacBean and Company Limited. It was one of the biggest waterproof manufacturers in Britain. And I carried on working for them for a little while and then started on my own again. And I got premises in a place called Muirkirk in Ayrshire and I ran a factory there for 31 years.
INT: Also making raincoats or something?
SM: Making waterproofs, yes. Yes.
INT: And you did that until you retired did you?
SM: Yes, until I was 70 years of age.
INT: Really? Does it still exist, this factory?
SM: No it doesn’t exist any longer no.
INT: Oh that’s a shame.
INT: Excuse me Sydney, you said you started up a factory with your brother in law…
INT: …was that the husband of Mr Goldwater’s daughter?
SM: No that was the husband of my wife’s sister.
INT: Ah your wife’s sister, I see.
INT: Did you ever find out why the Goldwaters took you in? Were they keen to…? Why did the Goldwaters decide to take a Kinder, a Kind?
SM: Well they had one son and the daughter was also adopted, it was the daughter of Mrs Goldwater’s sister who died when she was born.
So Mrs Goldwater brought her up and I think they were just fond of children and I got on very well with them. It was like being at home. And there was no difference between me and the other two children, we were level, in fact, I think I was… I got more privileges than the other two.
INT: Why, because you were the youngest or because of what you had gone through do you think?
SM: No, I blended in very well with the family, you know.
INT: That’s very good.
SM: In other words I assimilated.
INT: Yes. And talking of assimilation did you feel that you assimilated with the wider Jewish community in Glasgow or the wider…?
SM: Yes, yes of course. But I was always ashamed of being German at that time. I didn’t want people to know that I was German. And that’s probably one of the reasons why I don’t speak with an accent.
INT: Even though you knew you weren’t a Nazi and had suffered under the Germans you still felt that it was…
SM: I was ashamed of being German, yes.
INT: Yes, that’s interesting.
SM: Well I mean the war started and Germany was an enemy country. And, oh yes, during the war I joined the A.R.P, the Air Raid Precaution. I was an ambulance driver during the war. When I was…from 1942 when I became 17 I was a… I drove an ambulance, until the end of the war.
INT: And what about mixing with the wider Scottish community, did you find that easy to do?
SM: No problems. No problems whatsoever.
INT: And was that partly because you blended in?
INT: And did people know you were Jewish? That didn’t matter?
SM: Oh yes, I had a friend, a non-Jewish friend. We were very, very close. His name was Gordon Gunn. He died last year at 90. And through him I learned a lot of English, you know.
INT: That’s good.
INT: You spoke before about being unfortunate and fortunate. What would you say were the most fortunate aspects of your life?
SM: The fortunate aspect was that I was taken up by a family, Goldwater, which helped me a lot. And I grew up like one of them and, as I say, I couldn’t have wished for a better home. The fact that I didn’t have one; I lost my own parents and they made up for it.
SM: I never called them ‘mother’ or ‘father’, they didn’t adopt me legally. I still kept my own name and I called them ‘uncle’ and ‘aunt’.
INT: And when they originally found you did they actually come and see you at Dovercourt or they just asked for a young man of a certain age?
SM: No, no, they came, they came to Dovercourt on a Sunday and it was quite funny how it happened. I was very small for my age, I still am small, but when I was 13 I looked a lot younger. And on the Sunday the boys played football and I wanted to play football but in January, near the seaside, the weather, it was raining; it was muddy and they wouldn’t let me play because I was too small and they thought I would get lost in the mud. And they sent me back home, back to the hall, and I ran back and I accidentally bumped into a lady, I apologised, and then went away. I didn’t know whether I hurt her or not. And I sat at the very end of the hall. It was a huge hall with three stoves in the middle, and I went to the furthest away and sat behind the stove and they spoke to an attendant of the camp, a lady, and then they pointed to me and I said; ‘I must have done something wrong, I’m in trouble’.
And then they called me and that was Mrs Goldwater and then Mr Goldwater said would I like to go to Scotland? I said ‘yes’ and the girl then said ‘no you can’t have him, because he’s only been in here two days. There are other boys here who are here for a month or two’. And he turned round and said ‘Well if I can’t have him, we don’t want anybody’. So that was it, that’s how I came to Glasgow.
INT: That is very fortunate. She must really have liked you. That is very fortunate.
SM: As a matter of fact, a funny thing, in 1949 when I went to South America to see my uncles and grandmother I was stateless, you know, when I left Germany the condition was when I left I became stateless. And I became a British resident, not a British subject. And the passport I had was green, it wasn’t dark blue the way they should have been and on the ship I shared a cabin with three other men, well boys and they called me ‘Jock’. And they did not know that I was German and I didn’t let them know that I was German and anytime we went ashore, you know, you had to hand your passport in to the purser. And I never did that – I used to make an excuse when we got there, ‘I must go back I’ve forgot something’ and I handed in my green document and that was it.
But they never knew that I was German. So…because as I say I was ashamed of being German, about what they did during the war and the countries they occupied. I mean they were, the Nazis were a horrible people. They weren’t normal. And this friend of mine in Germany he…if he would have been alive then he would have certainly been in the concentration camp because he maintains that to be a good Nazi you had to be stupid, and the more stupid you were the better a Nazi you were, that was his definition of the Nazis.
INT: And do you agree with him?
SM: Absolutely, absolutely. They believed lies, propaganda. And all of a sudden from being good people we were bad people, overnight virtually. And I don’t think that sort of thing ever happened in the world before, the way the Germans, the Nazis, behaved towards not only Jewish people, anyone they felt was an enemy of theirs. They treated them the same. There were gypsies, communists, certain political people who didn’t…Well, there was only one set of politics in Germany and that was it. Anybody that belonged to another party they were locked up in concentration camps and done away with.