Rydal Penrhos alumni Ben Elton joins #Refugene campaign

TV star speaks on plight of his family, who took refuge at Rydal Penrhos during height of Nazi Germany

Ben Elton, famed for writing the cult comedy Black Adder with Richard Curtis, has lent his support to a charity campaign where a number of celebrities have told the tale of relatives’ refugee past with the #Refugene hashtag.

The Refugene initiative is run by Help Refugees, and has been supported by singers Rita Ora and Jamie Cullum among others.

Elton’s family, who are Jewish and had the surname Ehrenberg, fled Germany in the 1930s as Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party began to impose their absolute power on the country.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said: “My grandfather, an ancient historian, found a teaching position in London, which secured an entry visa for him and his wife, but not their children.

“It was then that a chat between two strangers on a train in Wales led to news of my family’s plight reaching the Methodist chaplain of Rydal Penrhos School in Colwyn Bay.

“He offered to take the two boys into his school, to house, feed and teach them for nothing.”

The two boys, Lewis and Geoffrey, made the most of their opportunity at Rydal Penrhos, with the former studying at Cambridge University on his way to becoming a fellow of the American Institute of Physics.

Geoffrey, who died in 1994, was a historian who had been knighted in 1986 and once recalled: “One memory is clear: we came as strangers, and you took us in”.

To honour the pair, Rydal Penrhos launched a special scholarship in 1995 named the Ehrenberg-Elton Scholarship, which is available to pupils from Eastern Europe.

Alumni and Development Director, Sarah Ritchie, said: “By having the Ehrenberg-Elton scholarship available, we can continue to support Eastern European students with their studies here at Rydal Penrhos, while also honouring those who were refugees here during the Second World War.

“It will be a source of honour for these scholars to be associated with a family name of such distinction – and an expression of hope from Rydal Penrhos that another very real contribution will be made to the next generation of young men and women.”


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