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17 War years, Recollections, Jewish Refugees

Refugees from Europe: Tom Stoppard

Tom Stoppard

British playwright and screed-writer, Sir Tom Stoppard, was born in Czechoslovakia in 1937. His family came from Zin, a city dominated by the shoe industry. His father, Eugen Straussler was a doctor with the Bata shoe company. His mother, Martha Beckova and Eugen were non-observant Jews.

Prior to the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Jan Antonin Bata, the patron of the town, helped re-post his Jewish employees, mostly physicians, to various parts of the world where the Company had a presence. The Straussler family was among those re-posted.

Eugen and Martha had two boys, Tomas and Petr. The family was sent to Singapore in 1939. Before the Japanese invasion of Singapore Martha and her two boys were sent to Australia. Straussler remained in Singapore as a British army volunteer. Tomas was four years old when his father died in captivity as a prisoner of War in 1941.

Maria and the boys were evacuated to Darjeeling that year. Both boys attended Mount Herman School. Maria worked at the Bata Shoe shop in Darjeeling. In 1945 Maria married Kenneth Stoppard and the family moved with him to England in 1946.

Tom remembers his four years in India fondly. In the interview at the Jaipur Literary Festival (2018) he speaks about how he would dream of India. He also mentions that the family lived briefly in Batanagar, where the Bata shoe company was located on the outskirts of Calcutta ( South 24 Parganas).

For interview with Tom Stoppard that mentions his childhood in India: click here