Vienna-born industrialist Lord Schon honoured with blue plaque - in Cumbria


Lord Schon, the industrialist and chemist who was a refugee from the Nazis, has been honoured with a commemorative plaque in his adopted hometown of Whitehaven in Cumbria.

The honour was bestowed by the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) to commemorate the life of the peer, who died in 1995.

Frank Schon was born in Vienna in May 1912 and fled to the UK in 1939 following the Nazi occupation of Prague, where he was working for a chemical company.

He left London during the Blitz and relocated to Whitehaven, where he and partner Fred Marzillier merged their names to form Marchon Products Ltd, which manufactured synthetic detergent raw materials. Three years later he set up Solway Chemicals Ltd which created many jobs in Cumbria.

He was chairman of both firms until 1967 when he was appointed chairman of the National Research Development Corporation. He used the position to argue for greater investment in British manufacturing and believed the Common Market would bring greater export opportunities.

He was knighted in 1966 and made a life peer in 1976. Concluding his maiden speech to the House of Lords he said: “The debt that I owe to the kindness and humanity of the British people cannot be discharged.”

The plaque was unveiled at Lord Schon’s family home in Whitehaven today. The peer’s daughters Yvonne and Susie both attended the unveiling.

AJR Trustee Frank Harding said: “It is with great pride and pleasure that we commemorate the life of Frank Schon, whose pioneering and visionary work not only greatly advanced the development of industrial chemicals but through whose endeavours created significant employment in Cumberland.

“Having arrived in this country with limited means, and having been interned as an enemy alien, Frank Schon’s skills and determination enabled him to make an enormous contribution to his adopted country.”

AJR’s plaque scheme aims to honour prominent Jewish émigrés from Nazism who made a significant contribution to their adopted homeland.

Previous beneficiaries include the impresario Sir Rudolf Bing, biochemist and Nobel Prize winner Sir Hans Krebs, Sir Ludwig Guttmann, founder of the Paralympics, and theologian, teacher and rabbi, Dr Leo Baeck.

Mr Harding added: “We believe that these commemorative plaques will help form a tangible link between the illustrious earlier residents and the local community as well as fascinating residents and visitors. As well as being instructive and informative, they bring the past into the present, and they perpetuate the memory of the person being honoured.”

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