Chapter 2


Leaving Germany


The eventual appointment of Dr. Simon to Spic & Span came about via the correspondence on the matter between Mr. Axelrath in Germany and Mr. John J.E. Forman who was employed by Spic & Span.

It is not usual while writing the biography of one person to include a tribute to another but at this stage this is what must be done in the case of John James Ernest Forman.

He was born in Hamburg, Germany of a British father and a German mother and came to England at an early age. In 1934 he joined Spic & Span as factory manager after a period of training at the shoe polish factory in Hamburg and, to put it mildly, was appalled by the conditions in which he found the factory at Glover Street and in which he was expected to produce a saleable product. Nevertheless he made progress and, despite the company constantly being in the red, he was appointed a director in 1937. In this position it was through correspondence between Mr. Axelrath in Germany and John Forman which managed to transfer funds to keep the company going and to the appointment of Hermann Simon to the company. He proved to be a loyal companion and friend to Dr. Simon throughout their co-operation as the company grew into Evode Holdings p.l.c.

Hermann was born on 30 October 1900 in the small town of Mainhart, about 10 kilometres from Heilbronn in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg. He was the only son of Dr. Heinrich Simon, born in Dusseldorf and his wife Bertha, born in Eschenau on 14 April 1872, who were married on 7 August 1894 in the village of Eschenau in the state of Bavaria. It is worth noting that Bertha`s maiden name was Bamberger and Eschenau was only a few miles from the town of Bamberg.

There is no evidence that Hermann attended the state school in Mainhart but it is suspected that he was educated at a private school with a view to, eventually, he would enter into higher education. It is known that his father being the local doctor he travelled around the area with his father when he was making calls and the journeys were made by horse and carriage.

As Hermann grew into maturity Germany was, of course, engaged in fighting the First World War. It is understood that as he approached conscription age he was called into the armed services and it is believed that he served in a cavalry regiment of some description. To verify this suspicion there is on file an official letter headed “In The Name Of The Fuhrer And The State Chancellor”, who was at that time Generalfeldmaschall von Hindenburg, thanking Hermann for his wartime service. It is dated Berlin, 19 December 1935 and is addressed to “Chemiker Dr. Ing. Hermann Simon”.

Hermann Simon moved to University at Stuttgart. The time during which he did this is uncertain (certainly after demobilisation) but it would have taken a period of about six years for him to have gained a Doctorate in Chemical Engineering (D.Eng. Chem.). It is therefore probable that he attended the University at Stuttgart between the years 1919 and 1925.

Correspondence with a person still living in Germany raised doubts as to whether the University of Stuttgart existed when Hermann Simon did his studying. Consulting the Wikipedia website advises that what is now “Universitat Stuttgart” was founded in 1829. Because of the increasing importance of technical sciences from 1876 the University was known as a technical college which was awarded promotional rights for technical disciplines in 1900. The name reverted to a University in 1967.

He has claimed that, during his period at University, he lived on $1(per day/month)? At this point in time Germany was in dire straights so far as her economy was concerned. Reparations being paid by Germany to the victorious Allied nations led to the economy being devalued. The German mark fell between 1919 from $1.00 being worth 8.20 marks to December 1923 over 4 trillion marks. People had to make use of the savings accumulated during the war as they could not make purchases from their income. This currency coming into circulation led to inflation and the fall in the mark to hyperinflation. The question arises who subsidised Hermann while he was doing his studies? Did his father meet the cost of his education at this time or did he obtain a scholarship and receive a grant? Sadly his mother died in Heidelberg on 4 August 1928 and on 15 March 1929 his father moved to Stuttgart for what reason is not known, having retired as a General Practitioner. He died there in 1933.

After Hermann had completed his studies at Stuttgart he moved to Berlin and joined Chemische Werke Zimmer & Co. of Berlin and Stuttgart. (Was Hermann originally based in Stuttgart)? The company was situated in Flossenstrasse, Berlin engaged in the manufacture of bituminous products which was an subject in which Hermann gained considerable knowledge and expertise. In addition to these waterproofing products the company made a wide range of materials used in the building industry and also a range of aluminium based paints which, when he came to England, Hermann offered to the Air Ministry. His activities with the company were so much appreciated that he was made a partner after a short while.

While in Berlin his private life was also being enhanced. On 31 March 1932 he married Hildegard Ruth Leiser at Berlin-Wilmersdorf. She had been born in Berlin and they lived at Eichkamp Kikadennweg 48, Berlin and then in Dahlen, Bachstelzennweg 10 Berlin in October 1937. Two of his children were born in Berlin, Marion on 6 October 1934 and Petra on 19 December 1935.

Unfortunately the political situation in Germany was in turmoil and the antagonism against people living there who could not claim to be “of the master race” were persecuted and those who were lucky enough to survive were encouraged to leave, taking with them the bare minimum. Under these circumstances Dr. Simon, after correspondence passing between Mr. Axelrath, Mr. Forman and himself, took the decision to immigrate to Britain, having been offered a position with Spic & Span.

As previously implied, exchange control on bringing money out of Germany, was strictly applied particularly on people who wanted to leave the Third Reich. Therefore the family assets had, to a great extent, to be disposed of but Hermann managed to preserve enough to take his family on a world-wide journey before settling in England and to purchase a considerable stock of clothing for them all. The articles which could be brought with them was also closely monitored and these were packed into two sealed containers which accompanied them to England. While in Germany the family had a pet dog, a great dane called Bille. Ideally they would have loved to bring him with them to England but a lengthy quarantine period, due to the strict British laws on rabies, prevented this. The fate of the dog is not known.

Correspondence available tells us that Dr. Simon made his first visit to Stafford alone in November 1937 to visit Spic & Span and to arrange accommodation for his family. The latter, apparently, was arranged with John Forman who was asked to find a “cheap” place for them to stay. Mr. Forman, took these instructions very literally and reserved accommodation at a hostel on the Wolverhampton Road in Stafford, no doubt the “cheapest of the cheap“, not at all to the liking of Mrs. Simon, as he found out at a later date.

Dr. Simon bought a house in St. John`s Road, Stafford. English houses were very different to those in Germany and it was difficult for Mrs. Simon to adjust easily. German houses were built for harsher winters. They had double glazing and central heating. Rooms were larger and all measurements were in metric. It was awkward to fit their German furniture and curtains into the rooms but it was managed gratefully and a new life began.

Another aspect of English society which Mrs. Simon found difficult to accept was that of visiting people on the off chance. In Germany, when invited to “drop in for a cup of tea” it meant that at any time, whereas in England it was purely a polite way of conversation a really did not imply that. As she assumed the German convention her unexpected arrival did not always go down very well.

About the same time as Hermann left Germany his cousin George Simon left for New York where he hoped to market, under license, Herman`s product Mellitol ( a concrete waterproofer and densifier). This did not happen, however, due to lack of support from Mr. Axelrath of Cadie Chemicals Products Corporation.