Theo Stern

Born: Oberstein am Nahe, Germany, 18 August 1905

Profession in country of origin: dealer in precious stones

Arrived in Britain as a refugee from Germany in 1939


Editor: Theo Stern does not appear to have been in Kitchener when it was a refugee camp, but was sent here to train as a member of the Pioneer Corps when the refugee camp became Pioneer Corps Training Ground No. 3
Male enemy alien - Exemption from internment - Refugee  
Surname: Stern
Forename: Theo
Alias: - 
Date and place of birth: 18/08/1905 Oberstein
Nationality: German
Police Regn. Cert. No.: 631151
Home Office ref:   
Address: 168a Finchley Road, Hampstead, NW3 
Normal occupation: Precious stone dealer
Present occupation: as above
Name and address of employer: T Stern, 10, St Alban's Street, SW1
Decision of tribunal: Exempt from internment
Date 13th November 1939
Whether exempted from Article 6(A): yes
Whether desires to be repatriated: no

Tribunal District: Metropolitan Police Tribunal no. 11


My father, Theo Stern, did not talk much about this.

All I know is that he was evacuated from St Malo after demolishing the harbour fortifications in 1940, and was involved in interrogating German POWs after the war, in Schleswig-Holstein.

My father also mentioned that he made several business trips to England before the war: the family were in the gemstone-cutting business in Oberstein. His brother, Willy Stern, was their agent in the UK, living in Birmingham. He was searched by the German border guards whom he thought suspected him of trying to smuggle jewellery out of the country.

Just one other story my father told – about when the Pioneer Corps were getting ready to go to France (I don’t know when this happened).

The men were told they could change their names so as not to have too obviously Jewish or German ones in case they were captured. My father kept his (Stern) since it was not too un-English, but many did take advantage of the offer.

He always spoke of one man from Czechoslovakia who thought that the whole thing was a big joke, so he decided to take on the name of his cigarettes, Du Maurier. A few weeks later the sergeant called out “Dumorier fall out,” but nobody moved until this man realised it was his new name, just mispronounced. He quickly made a further change – to Maxwell (Robert)!

It’s bit like the story of assimilated Hungarian Jews, who first converted to Protestantism and later to the predominant Roman Catholic Church. Their reason was that when asked their religion they could say “Roman Catholic,” and be ready to answer the inevitable follow up questions:

“Were you born RC?”


“What was your previous religion?”


Submitted by Martin Stern for his father, Theo Stern


Richborough transit camp, Theo Stern, Paris, 1920s
Theo Stern, Paris, 1920s
Kitchener camp, Theo Stern, in Pioneer Corps uniform
Kitchener camp, Theo Stern, in Pioneer Corps uniform
Kitchener camp, Theo Stern and his family, late 1940s
Theo Stern and his family, late 1940s