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Running for their Lives
ImageIn  2005 Avigdor Primary School in Stoke Newington closed its doors for the very last time.  Read the incredible story of how it all started - with refugee children running for their lives to safety in England .... 

Why the strange name?

The answer is that the school was name after Rabbi Avigdor Schonfeld, who lived in Stoke Newington: he started a school way back in 1929 - in the Seven Sisters Road.  His name "Avigdor" is just the same as "Victor" in English.  

Any connection with Schonfeld Square?
Yes,  that is named after Avigdor's son Solomon, also a rabbi, who was a very special man, and the head-teacher of Avigdor School.

What made him so special?
Solomon Schonfeld saved the lives of thousands of people before, during and after World War Two.

How did he do that?
Even before the Second World War and the holocaust started, life was very dangerous for Jewish people in Germany, Austria and other countries in Europe.   Solomon heard that people were being attacked and their homes and synagogues destroyed:  that parents were desperate to find places where their children could be safe.

As well as looking after the school that Avigdor had started,  he worked night and day, finding out what was going on, and persuading people to let children come to England.   Of course he had to prove that there was places for the children to stay, and that they would be looked after properly.   To help them escape before it was too late, he showed that 260 children could even sleep in his school.   As well as that,  he squeezed another 40 beds for children into his own house in Lordship Park - deciding that from now on he would sleep in a chair, instead of a bed.

The first of the refugee chldren he saved arrived from Vienna one freezing night in December 1938.   Clutching their few possessions, the children were transported througha bizzard from the port in Harwich to their new homes in London.

Solomon organised teams of people to try to make sure that these children, who had had to leave home without their parents, would be safe and comfortable in England.

How many children did he save?
ImageAltogether Solomon saved hundreds of children from near-certain death.  When he was sked how many he had actually saved, he thought for a while, and said "But how many didn't I save?".  Many children in Europe, like Anne Frank, were not so lucky.

When did the school move to Lordship Road?
During the war, the whole school was evacuated to a little village in Bedfordshire.   After it was safe to come home, and the war ended, the primary school opened ints doors in Lordship Road in 1947.

Are any of the children still alive?
Yes.  Some still live locally in Stoke Newington, sometimes  in the very places that they came to as frightened children all those years ago.  There are people all over the world who remember the rabbi they called "The Pied Piper", and the school they nick-named "Noah's Ark".

You can read about Anne Frank in issue 14, and about a very different story of Bill Tebbutt, a Hackney boy,  being evacuated in World War Two in Issue 15.    And in  the Four Corners exhibition at Sutton House. people who came to Hackney from all over the world told their stories.
 
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