Monday, 8 August 2016

The Family Gathering

This tale concerns the will of Sir Ernest Schiff and in particular his attempt to leave a legacy to his sisters in Germany, Giustina in Berlin, and Jenny in Hamburg despite the colossal anti-German sentiments in Britain during the First World War. Below is a short story written by Sir Ernest's great niece, Esmé Schiff, the daughter of Sir Ernest's nephew, also named Ernest, and in fact an account of a real meeting that did take place, probably in 1924. In the original typescript all the members of the Schiff family are given pseudonyms, as in the list below, but at some later date Esmé has gone through the typescript and inserted the names of the real characters. It is well-observed, but I am sure that almost a hundred years later Esmé Schiff's account would still cause offence to members of the family, for which I apologise. With the perspective of history the treatment of their German cousin Richard Nöhring appears outrageous, and their disregard for the provisions of Sir Ernest Schiff's will very unfair. They all benefitted handsomely from his will, and it is surprising that they deprived Richard of his rightful inheritance. Richard fought through the English courts for decades, and his case was eventually aired in the House of Lords as late as 1953 as can be seen below, some thirty-five years after Sir Ernest's death. Richard left Germany for the United States of America in 1938, no doubt because of his Jewish ancestry, even though his mother had converted to Lutheranism.
I am grateful to my cousin Rosalynd for the access she allowed me to have to her family archive.

The Family Gathering

Prudence Brook = Catherine Storrs
Carl Fröhling = Richard Nöhring
Jerry = Ernest Schiff (Tony)
Bruton Streets = Brook Streets
Berkeley Squares = Lowndes Squares
Schwartz = Schiff
Jasper = Sydney
Naomi = Violet
Ruth = Esmé
Fanny = Ruth’s mother
James = Charles
Ethel = Lucile Sayers (and Lorne Sayers)
Miriam = Mamie (Mary Brydone)
Lewis Bennett = Robin Brydone
Gertrude = Jeanette Tarleton
Maj. George Walker = Frank Tarleton
Clara = Rose Morley
Yvonne = Marie de Marwicz

The meeting was arranged for 12.45 on the 10th of March at Catherine Storr’s house in Eaton Square. All the family were requested to be present to discuss the Richard Nöhring affair and to decide what steps must be taken.
Many of them had not met for years and hardly knew each other by sight. There had been a kind of feud, dating from the time of Ernest’s death, between the two branches of the family — the Brook Street branch, consisting of Ernest’s brother, sisters, and, latterly, his daughter; and the Lowndes Square branch, usually known collectively as “the Lowndes Squares.” They were first cousins of the others and children of the eldest Schiff brother who, late in life, had married a very young, kind, middle-class American from the Southern States. In this family were two sons — one of whom was killed in the war — and four daughters. They had always championed Ernest’s wife [check correction] and more or less openly expressed their relief and satisfaction when he met such a tragic end. This was naturally much resented by his brother and sisters, and the two branches had hardly been on speaking terms for some years. There had been no actual quarrel; it was more that this incident had provided a pretext for expressing the innate and essential difference in outlook, values and nature of the two branches of the family.
Sydney and his sisters almost forgot the existence of the Lowndes Squares and were not in the least interested in their lives or families. On the other hand the Lowndes Squares were constantly putting out feelers and making tentative remarks to Esmé, Ernest’s daughter, whom they regarded as a connecting link, to try to discover what the sisters were ‘up to’ — as they put it. They held them in great suspicion, especially Sydney, who was regarded by them and by Ernest’s wife as a very dark horse indeed. Esmé could never discover why.
Since Esmé had grown up and away from her mother and had acquired some sense of perspective, she had steadily avoided the matter-of-fact, superficially affectionate relationship of the Lowndes Squares, to which she had been accustomed as a child and girl. She found them uncongenial; worthy but coarse-fibred, apparently kind but smug, the atmosphere in which they lived suffocated her.
They in turn were completely at a loss to understand how Emma’s daughter (forgetting that she was also Ernest’s) who had always been so devoted and loyal, could possibly ‘turn against’ her mother in this extraordinary way. How could she go over to the enemy camp and fraternize with Sydney whom her mother had always detested, and Violet his wife who was so strange and unknown.  And they heard very funny stories about Esmé too, so they told each other. She had a flat of her own in London, although she was married to a very nice retired Army officer and lived in the country, and had been seen about on several occasions with a queer looking man with a beard. Mollie, her mother’s companion, had told them that she hardly ever went to see her mother who was most unhappy about her. And she looked so different lately — used lipstick and that kind of thing and was altogether — well — very ‘modern’. It was all very queer — she was not turning out as they had expected — and they felt very sorry for poor Emma who had so much to put up with!
However it was necessary that they should all meet on this occasion — money was involved — and the vague hostility of years must for the moment at any rate, be put on one side and the well known Lowndes Square cordiality, which was no respecter of persons, be allowed to flourish once more. Esmé, being the youngest member of the family, was present more in the role of spectator than participator, and she had opportunity to study and compare the circle of fourteen people gathered in Catherine’s drawing room.
The greetings, some effusive, some nervously-genial, some rather distant, were over, and without any apparent intention on the part of the members the circle became two semicircles — a Brook Street semi circle and a Lowndes Square one.
Esmé considered them as they sat facing and watching each other. Was it possible that they were related — and closely related? Although she had always been aware of the difference in quality between the two families, never before had she had the opportunity of observing the outward signs of that difference. Never, since she had grown up, had she seen them placed side by side in one room. The effect was startling.
Catherine, in whose house they met, was the eldest of the Lowndes Squares — the widow of a most delightful, cultured and loveable man who had died of double-pneumonia six years after their marriage.
In common with her sisters she was short and dumpy. She had an alert, intelligent expression, dark Schiff eyes, wiry fuzzy grey hair which seemed to stand straight up from her head, and small, plump hands which by their movement emphasized the quick impatience of her conversation.
Although married and the mother of two sons, Catherine had remained at heart a philanthropic spinster — she had never been young. Perhaps if her husband had lived a bit longer he might have achieved the miracle.
Conscientious, hard-working, energetic; a voluble talker, she was a mine of information and possessed of a very definite religious belief which, however, did not in the least interfere with her shrewdness in money matters. She had grown a little less intolerant and staccato in her reactions to life as she became middle aged — her lively intelligence and desire to keep in touch with her growing sons had no doubt helped her to be more easy going than she had been when Esmé first remembered her; then she was priggish, quick tempered and dogmatic and regarded by her own family as an inevitable old maid.
Next to her sat her brother Charles. All the Lowndes Squares had a faint nigger look — common to so many Southern States Americans — imbibed perhaps from their nigger marmies.
But this might never have amounted to more than a fleeting impression, a slight reminiscence, had it not been for Charles. In him was crystallised that characteristic which Esmé described to herself as ‘nigger-jewishness’, After seeing him one became more definitely aware of the existence of this quality in his sisters; one knew they were cut from the same piece of cloth.
His short and stocky figure seemed to be rooted in whatever place he was standing; there he would stand, his feet turned out, hands in pockets, arguing plausibly in his curious, drawling, rather womanish voice which had a distinctly American flavour combined with a faint guttural quality. Full lips, of which one was very much aware when he spoke, dark beady eyes under heavy lids, short hooked nose, sallow complexion, rather square jaw, head bald except for a half circle of crinkly black hair which was beginning to turn grey.
He had married a school friend of his sister’s — a Canadian — placid, good natured, heavy, cow-like — with wide-open rather perplexed blue eyes, who just sat and accepted the family and all its doings without comprehending it or, apparently, wishing to do so. Then came the three younger sisters and their husbands.
Lucile, who in spite of her rather cosmopolitan parentage, was simply a short, fat, rather jolly English bourgeoise mother of a family. Frankly selfish, but good-humoured and a patient wife to her devoted but exceedingly irascible and asthmatic husband — Lorne Sayers — a hot-tempered, still young looking Irishman who had the most positive and, to him, unassailable opinions on politics and every other subject under the sun.
Esmé had spent a month at Lowndes Square when she was eight years old and, at that time, had liked Lucile best of all that family. She was then just out and very full of life and considered pretty and charming and a bit of a flirt, and had been kind to the rather lonely child; had taken the trouble to talk to her and play with her and tell her the most fascinating fairy stories which Esmé remembered with delight for many years.
Quite different to Mamie whom Esmé had disliked from early childhood. Mamie had teased and laughed at her when she was a schoolgirl and Esmé about four years old, and, as she grew older, always adopted a rather condescending, superior manner towards her. During the war Mamie had worked hard and efficiently as a nurse, and at the end of it, at the age of thirty two or three she had married a doctor, Robin Brydone a successful London accoucheur.
Ruth found him oily, facetious and most unsavoury. He had protruding watery blue eyes, an unkempt moustache, and looked as if he were perpetually on the point of telling a dirty story. Like her sisters, Mamie was short, but did not become fat until after she was married, then she grew quite shapeless and her very small head accentuated the breadth of her figure. All the sisters had incredibly bad taste as regards clothes, they were not easy subjects, but they certainly did not make the best of themselves and their bad points were never disguised as they might have been.
The youngest daughter, Jeanette, was only seven years older than Esmé who, when she first left school had liked her and rather looked up to her. She had seemed a good sort, intelligent, kindly, energetic. But as Esmé began to grow up she found that often in her conversations with Jeanette she would think that they were talking the same language, that they understood each other, when suddenly some strong but indefinable barrier would make itself felt and Esmé realized that their aspirations and sensibility were of an entirely different order. Before she had fully realized this esmé sometimes felt caught in a trap; she had given free expression to her thoughts only to find them apparently understood but essentially misinterpreted — the same terms would be used but, as the values of the two girls were on different planes, they would not have the same significance.
Jeanette was a kind of conversational sorting and checking machine; any subject that was given to her was neatly divided, pigeon-holed and labelled, nothing was left undefined or undecided. All the sisters were rather like this — everything settled and arranged, no element of doubt admitted, a comfortable if uninspired philosophy.
After a time Esmé avoided her cousin, not because she disliked her, but because she felt they had nothing in common and that meetings could only be fruitless.
Jeanette was married a year after Esmé, to a retired Cavalry officer — a Major Frank Tarleton — who had been badly wounded in the war and left, like so many others of his kind, with a permanent grouse at the passing of ‘the good old times’, a hatred of everything modern, and a strong affection for whisky as the consoler in all times of trouble. He was here to-day, at the family gathering.
All three husbands were here — Esmé wondered why — and then, rather maliciously, thought it quite natural that they should be. After all it was very much their business (they had certainly made it so) to look after their wives’ money, and they took a keen and anxious interest in the debate that followed.
So much for the Lowndes Squares. Esmé considered them collectively. How solid and unrefined and smug they looked. She had never realized until now how truly appalling their legs were. She gazed at them, fascinated — thick, stumpy, ending in fat podgy feet which seemed to be overlapping their shoes—— Esmé’s eyes kept wandering back to them and, as the debate proceeded, they became to her symbols of their owner’s minds. They were indeed of the earth, earthy — planted in material substance and satisfied to be so.
Esmé turned to look at her aunts — Sydney’s sisters —  the eldest one […] Rosie and Marie afforded a striking contrast to the Lowndes Squares.
Rosie, with her fine dark eyes, high colouring, good features, wavy grey hair brushed back from her forehead — erect carriage and alert bearing, was a striking looking woman. She was always dressed in strong, clear-cut clothes — dark, definite, modern. Only since the recent death of her useless, hypochondriacal husband had she been able to free herself from her surroundings, eliminate the inessential elements of her life, discover and develop her true personality. Her innate vitality had enabled her to make a determined effort to achieve this, but, as a limb that has been for a long time paralyzed is stiff and awkward in its first movements, so did she lack that ease and sensibility necessary to establish the valuable human relationships of which she stood in need. Her great interest in life was music and the discovery and assistance of promising young musicians.
Esmé rather admired her and would have liked to know her better, but unfortunately early prejudice on both sides prevented any real contact. In her youth Esmé had allowed her Mother’s dislike of the whole Schiff family to cloud her own judgment. Rosie had never cared for children and, in addition, had no doubt felt Esmé’s hostility. While always kind to her because she was Ernest’s daughter, she had for years been in the habit of considering her as an almost fanatical supporter of her mother and was not interested enough to realize that she now had a life and ideas of her own. Esmé had made several attempts to get in touch with her aunt — but they had not been very successful. Rosie’s rather overbearing and chilly manner and preconceived idea of Esmé and her life did not create an atmosphere of sympathy.
Marie — the youngest member of the Brook Street family, was dark, pretty and vivacious. Esmé knew her very little as she had lived most of her life abroad. She seemed sympathetic and full of fun and Esmé had heard many entertaining stories of her escapades and adventures. She had married twice — both Germans — and had two sons and now lived in Paris, only coming to London about once a year. She resembled her sister Rosie but was a smaller, less austere edition.
There was about them both a foreign, a cosmopolitan air, they might equally well have been French, German, Austrian. And this was essentially true — they were at home in any European country and were constantly travelling.
Esmé pulled herself together and tried to concentrate on what her uncle Sydney was saying. In his quiet, cultured voice he was explaining the situation to the Lowndes Squares – at whose request the meeting had taken place.
Esmé was sitting next to him and turned to look at him while he spoke.
Tall, spare, well-proportioned, essentially aristocratic — his head small and well shaped — his eyes, behind pale horn rimmed glasses, large, dark brown, luminous — looked inwards in intense concentration of thought or pierced through all disguises to the heart and mind of the person he was studying.
He was, as usual, perfectly dressed — dark brown suit, beautifully cut, of a soft fine material, silk shirt, dark brown tie, spotted handkerchief, dark brown silk socks, well polished brown shoes — everything about him fresh, well-cared for. His clothes seemed part of himself, an expression of his personality.
Bedide Sydney sat Violet; quiet, watchful and, on account of his slight deafness, interpreting to him the questions and remarks which followed his explanation.
To Esmé she seemed the only unified and harmonious personality in the room. Cool, clear-headed, with a complete grasp of the situation and of the characters of the other people, she dominated them all — although they were unaware of it and had no conception of the strength underlying her quiet firm manner.
Unlike Sydney and his sisters she made no attempt to show a friendliness which she did not feel. She was pleasant in her manner to the Lowndes Squares but refused to be drawn into meaningless conversations.
She spoke no superfluous word; each thing she said had significance, though unrecognised by the majority of those present.
Sydney listened to their remarks and opinions. He said very little, gazing most of the time at the floor.
Esmé felt disappointed; she had hoped he would take a stronger line, refute their worthless arguments. Gradually, however, it dawned on her that her uncle’s apparent docility was inevitable. From the moment he was aware of their individual and collective inability to see the matter in its true light he made no attempt to argue with them or to impose his own opinion on them. As well as try to make himself intelligible to a school of porpoises, or endeavour to fight with a rapier against a blunderbuss. The situation, it appeared, was as follows: Under the will of their uncle Sir Ernest Schiff, their cousin Richard Nöhring inherited a very substantial portion of the estate.
It came about in this way. The money had been divided first into three parts. One third for the brook Street family, one third for the Lowndes Squares and one third for Uncle Ernest’s three surviving sisters, living at the time of [his] death, in Germany; —their share to go on their deaths to Alice the married daughter of the only married sister, and after that to her son Richard.
Uncle Ernest had died just before the end of the war and, owing to post-war legislation, the Austrian and German beneficiaries of the will were not entitled to their part. This meant that their share was paid to the other two branches of the family. At the time there had been much discussion of the matter. The Brook Street group had considered that the family were morally, if not legally, bound to convey the money to Uncle Ernest’s sisters to whom he had been devoted by whatever means they could.
The Lowndes Squares did not take this view. They argued that, after all, the old aunts were ex-enemies, that their country had been responsible for the war, that they, the Lowndes Squares, had suffered bereavement and loss, that they had young children to bring up, that they needed the money and that, anyhow, if they did send it to Germany most of it would be confiscated by the German government and would do no good to any body.
Wonderfully plausible and reasonable their arguments were, but entirely regardless of the real issue and therefore merely irrelevant casuistry.
 Sydney did his utmost, by endless correspondence and discussion to persuade them that they had no right to the money which Uncle Ernest had intended for his sisters, to whom he had been devoted. In the end a compromise was reached and the Lowndes Squares had consented to send a portion of the money to the aunts during their life time but refused to undertake any obligations towards Richard in the future. “After all,’ said Catherine on one occasion, “Richard is an able bodied young man, why should we keep him in idleness — for all we know he may use the money for some anti-British purpose! He might even invest it in a poison gas factory!”
After two or three years the old aunts died. Alice did not survive them very long and Richard became nominal owner of that part of the estate. The Brook Streets continued to supply him with the money they had been sending to his mother, but the Lowndes Squares refused to contribute anything more.
Richard was an easy-going, good-natured rather heavy young man and seemed quite content with this arrangement. But he had a half-sister married to a very clever lawyer, who became interested in Richard’s affairs and undertook to investigate the possibilities of bringing a case against the trustees of the Schiff estate to reclaim the whole of Richard’s share under the will — as the international law had been modified and he considered it very likely that he was entitled to his full inheritance.
For years Sydney had warned the Lowndes Squares of this possibility and advised them, if only as a matter of policy, to pay a sufficient allowance to make it not worth his while to bring a doubtful and expensive case against the family. But they refused to consider the matter, were not interested in Richard, and deluded themselves that they were secure. Now the blow had fallen. Dr Becherer, Richard’s brother-in-law had come over to England for the purpose of enquiring into the matter. Sydney still thought that a friendly agreement might be arrived at and hoped, that after explaining the situation to the Lowndes Squares, that they would at last recognise their obligations towards Richard and volunteer to combine with the rest of the family in settling something definite upon him. They had been incapable of recognizing any moral obligation, but surely they would see that it would be far wiser to placate him rather than risk a protracted  and perhaps disastrous battle in the courts.
“I have” said Sydney, “had an interview with Dr Becherer who appears to me to be a very decent sort of man, anxious if possible to avoid any unpleasantness. I rather hinted that we might be able to come to some arrangement and, although of course he would not commit himself, I gathered that he was by no means opposed to the idea. He informed me that he had made exhaustive enquiries into the subject and was convinced that, should a case be brought, it had a very good chance of succeeding. My own lawyer confirms this view. I should like to know what you all think about it and whether you are prepared to make any suggestion as regards a definite allowance. —Naturally my sisters who feel as I do in the matter and myself having no children, would contribute a larger share than you who all have young families. We would continue to send what we have been sending for the last few years.”
There was a brief silence in which the Lowndes Squares glanced quickly at each other. They looked at the same time uncomfortable and defiant. Suddenly several of them began asking questions at once.
Lorne Sayers, who spoke loudly and rather aggressively, was the first to make himself heard.
“I should like to know on what grounds Dr Becherer considers that Richard is likely to win his case!” he asked Sydney. The others murmured supportingly — “Yes, yes — that’s the point — what are the chances — it all depends on that.”
“Dr Becherer, very naturally, did not disclose to me the sources of his information, but no doubt these could be discovered, and, as I mentioned just now, my own lawyer also considers the case a strong one,” replied Sydney.
Lorne Sayers smiled rather cynically, turning round as he did so to the rest of the family. “Hm — I don’t think that’s quite good enough.” He caught the sardonic eye of his brother-in-law Robin Brydone, the doctor, who murmured — “Don’t see why we should give the feller anything, till we’re obliged to — damn silly in my opinion.”
“After all,” said Mamie, “we have our own children to consider — we can’t afford to give him anything if we don’t have to. And besides — what sort of man is Richard? What kind of life does he lead? Is he married?”
Catherine was quick to take up this point. “Exactly,” she said — using a favourite expression of all the sisters, and speaking as usual with great emphasis on many words for no apparent reason, “we hardly know any thing about him. All we do know is that old Uncle Ernest very much disliked his mother Alice and I’m quite sure that the old man never intended all this money to come to Richard — it’s absurd — and obviously a technical error in the will.”
Jeanette, who had been having an earnest conversation with her husband and Mamie expressed the following opinions—
“It seems to me that if we offer Richard a compromise it weakens our case. It is as good as saying ‘we recognise the obligation but don’t feel inclined to do more than this.’ He might then say “Oh so you do admit that I have some right to the money — so why shouldn’t I have the lot?”
Violet turned towards her — “He might say ‘I recognise and appreciate their goodwill in wishing to give me a fair share and therefore have no wish to pursue the matter further.’”
Jeanette looked puzzled and made no reply. Her husband, addressing himself to no one in particular, remarked: “I think the whole thing is a bluff on the part of the German lawyer-fellow — let’s ignore it and hang on to the money.”
Sydney made one last attempt; turning to Charles, as head of the Lowndes Square family he said, “Well, will you yourself have a talk to Dr Becherer? Then perhaps you will have some further suggestion to make.”
Charles had a few minutes’ conversation with his sisters and brothers-in-law and then came and planted himself in front of Sydney. “No — we don’t wish to see Dr Becherer. We should prefer that any negotiations should be entered into by our solicitors — we have no wish to deal with a lawyer ourselves — one can so easily get caught out.” He stood their with his hands in his pockets, his feet turned out and a little crooked smile twisted his mouth. “After all why should we make the first move? We’ve got the money, we hold the fort, let them make their proposals and launch their attack. Then it will be time enough for us to consider what we are prepared to agree to.”
Sydney quietly interrupted: “Then it will be too late. All chances of a friendly and unofficial settlement will have vanished.”
This remark was ignored. Charles continued his summing up of the situation, seeming well pleased with himself. He put forth one plausible argument after another, illustrating his remarks with various highly coloured metaphors, turning from side to side as he spoke to catch the approving glances of his family, on his face a smile which seemed to say “How obvious all this is to anyone of intelligence — what a good thing I am here to check these quixotic notions and prevent any premature concessions!”
When he had finished speaking Sydney said: “I take it then that your family are entirely opposed to any idea of a compromise?”
“Oh not at all — not at all” said Charles and Catherine together, in surprised tones. “What we feel is, that it is not for us to do anything at present. Let them make their suggestions and, if we consider, after careful enquiry, that they are likely otherwise to win their case, then it will be time enough to offer Richard an allowance.”
“I see,” said Sydney. Violet turned to look at him. “I don’t think there is any more to be said.” Sydney smiled, rose and, after a few minutes friendly conversation with the rest of the family they went away, followed by Rosie, Marie and Esmé.

A fragment of a letter from Sir Ernest Schiff to his great niece Esmé Schiff. Esmé was born in 1900, so I'd guess this was written c.1912.

…down here and we shall have no end of fun together.
I hope you have entirely recovered from your chill and that [Mummie?] will find you playing in the open, when she comes down to see you today or tomorrow. I understand that you will all spend the Easter holidays at Brighton; if so, I shall certainly run down and have a good romp with my dear Mouse.
Aunt Marie arrived here a few days ago and is staying with Auntie Edith; they are both jolly and enjoying themselves. Uncle Evelyn is here too and Auntie Rosie is expected to join him next week. By that time my holidays will be nearing their end but I have had quite sufficient rest, and am quite content to return home. Uncle William is much better and sends his love. And I send mine  to old John Bruno and with a good hug for my dear little Mouse am as always
Your loving old Uncle
My best love to Mother if with you and to Alfred if you get across him. Also my love to Jeanette.

 An extract from the will of Sir Ernest Schiff, who died in November, 1918, in the closing days of the First World War. The full will is very long and complex, but these extracts show the source of the subsequent family squabble.

I bequeath to my Trustees the investments and securities which at the time of my death shall be standing to the credit of an account in the books of my firm called the J S Account. 1. Upon trust that they shall pay the income thereof to my sisters Jenny Schiff and Mrs Giustina Rodenberg in equal shares during their joint lives and to the survivor during her life and from and after the death of the survivor to my niece Alice Noehring during her life and that from and after her death they shall stand possessed of the said investments and securities and the income thereof in trust for her son Richard Noehring absolutely.
If as the result of legislation in Great Britain owing to the present War any of the beneficiaries under this my Will who are German subjects are precluded from taking such interests as I leave by this my Will bequeathed to or for their benefit then I direct that the interests which they would but for such legislation have been entitled to take shall be held by my Trustees Upon trust to pay the income if such interests consist of income and the income of the capital of such interests if the same consist of capital to my said nephews and nieces who are not German subjects in equal shares until such time as the said beneficiaries who are German subjects are able by reason of any further legislation to take their interests under this my Will but nevertheless I express a wish though without imposing upon them any express trust that my said nephews and nieces who are not German subjects will when the law permits them to do so repay to the said beneficiaries who are German subjects such sums as would but for the provisions of this clause have passed to them under the provisions of this my Will but if the effect of such first mentioned legislation is only to enact that any such interests shall be held by the Public Trustee or other British Government official pending the duration of the present European War then I direct that such interests shall not pass to beneficiaries under this my will other than the beneficiaries who are German subjects.

This is a letter from Jenny Schiff, last survivor of the three Schiff sisters in Hamburg, to her great niece Esmé. 

January 7th 1919

My darling has to know as soon as possible how delighted this old aunt has been and still is, to have received a sweet letter during the Christmas tide; she knows how to appreciate all love and affection brought forth to her from all dear ones who unfortunately are so cruelly separated at present from each other and her hope to be again united in the old way we all used to be together at least for some time every year. Let me hope my dearest child, although of course it will never be again as it [was] when it cannot bring us back the dearly beloved boy who was and could be our pride and delight! You all have been awfully good to write and I must gradually thank every one of the family young and old to show that I value the love which is offered to me. The only thing that in the dear circle I so far have missed is a line from your dear father, of whom I have not heard ever so long and I hope you will do your best to make him understand that somehow he might consider me your grandmother, just so as I think he might be my son. Your dear mammie will soon get my news and no end of messages from many friends who have known and loved her while she was staying with me. Everything is changed of course but still we must always try to get on as well as possible and for Uncle E I am so very glad that he can always be surrounded by all his dear young people. Will you give him my fondest love and tell him that today is being dear Aunt Virginia’s birthday. I think more than ever of him and of her. I have been rather [untidy?] with my fingers which had to endure chilblains  most severely in spite of warm room and not very cold weather, and this is the reason why I have not been able to practise my beloved piano as much as usual; maybe that I shall keep it all for the time we might practise together. I wish we could do it some day. Now please give a nice pat to your dear black cat running over your letter, and if possible do write soon again to your most devoted aunt Jenny Schiff who would so very much want to have a new photo of yours if it were possible.
Excuse the horrid writing all due to the crippled fingers!

 This letter seems to suggest that Jenny Schiff had been told of the untimely death of Esmé's father, Ernest Wilton Schiff, not long after his divorce from her mother.

Hamburg Aug 21st [?]
Esplanade 37

Dearest Esmé,
Almost impossible to tell you how pleased I was to get your letter dated October 12th and how much I appreciated that you took the trouble to write once again after such long time. May Heaven grant me soon a meeting anywhere it may as it seems awfully sad after all sad experiences we have gone through, that we should not be rewarded somehow by meeting again. I cannot tell you how I want to see your darling mother who has been tried in these last years much more than seems justified, but how is it possible that all this cruelty [?] had to come over and Let me drop this sad subject and hope that we might once more learn and appreciate all the good spent on us . It is very good of you, dear Esmé, to think in such sympathizing way of my poor eyes which in fact are a great trouble as there is nothing to be done and only time and patience can bring some improvement, and I must say that at my age there is not much view for such progress. What seems almost impossible is the mistake made by Mr Wilk[…] with regard to your dear Mother and I hope to hear soon either from you or her that every
… is settled as you both wish and again I repeat that my most ardent wish is to see you both again. I am so pleased that you work much with music and hope that your dear Mother is still faithful to her old masters. Do write me soon again and believe, to be as ever,
Your most affectionate,
Aunt Jenny

Excuse dips, but I cannot read or correct my mistakes.
Ever Your most affectionate
Aunt Jenny

As Esmé indicates in her short story 'The Family Gathering", she had grown away from the influence of her mother and was close to her uncle Sydney Schiff and his wife Violet. Mrs Seligman was Violet's sister Sybil, famous as the muse and mistress of the composer Giacomo Puccini.

Hôtel de l’Hermitage
Monte Carlo

Thursday Jan 6th '21

Dearest Esmé
Many thanks for your sweet letters which made me enter more thoroughly into your feelings than I did before. At first I thought that you were chiefly concerned about having unwittingly caused pain, but as I see the matter now, I think it all the more important that you should make a special effort to extend your acquaintance among young people and have variety and distraction in your life. This is not easy to achieve deliberately except by going for instance to some place where young people go for winter sports or else to such a place as Cannes where there is a lot of tennis and dancing. Failing this I think that though there are very few young people here, the change, the light, colour, false glitter etc would be an experience and a great pleasure to you if you could come and spend a few weeks with Edie. You would enjoy it very much I am sure and we should as you know love to have you. You might discuss this with your mother and if you decide to come you could travel with my sister Mrs Seligman who has booked places for herself and her maid in the sleeping car tram de luxe straight through to Monte Carlo for Feb. 10th.
Edward has had a telegram asking for names of people who would give impartial references and has given the name of the Dean of Christchurch and several others who know him well and can vouch for his moral character, so it looks as though he will get the appointment all right and if so he will have the best resource for a man, - work. As soon as he hears definitely he will go to England for a day or two to fetch his belongings and will then go direct to Geneva.
As to ourselves the journey was all right and I am much better though still very tired. It was wonderful arriving in the most glorious sunshine and the climate and the whole surroundings are both brilliant and soothing, like fairy land to look at. We hope to get into the villa on Sunday and long to be there. Bibka (of whom we have spoken so much to you) is stopping at Menton and is coming to lunch with us today. She is a great favourite of mine and I am sure you would like her very much too. She will be here all the winter. Anna Karenina accompanied us on our journey and was much discussed and appreciated but was not feeling well enough read at all and have not had time for reading since I have arrived besides one is busy trying to read the people one sees here at first. It is like being in a different world here to Cant. [?] Square, incredible and unreal.
Well goodbye dear Esmé, write me when you feel inclined.
Fondest love from us both,
Always your affectionate

Have you read La vraie femme and what do you think of it.

 Esmé by now has just married Montie Cooke. Her opinions on the Nöhring Affair seem to reflect her magnanimity and the influence of Sydney and Violet Schiff.


My dear Uncle Sydney,
Many thanks for your letter. I am sorry I have been so long in answering it. I much appreciate all your good wishes. No one could wish to be happier than you and Aunt Violet are, it is wonderful.
Thanks for sending me the letters. I was interested to read them. I have thought about this Aunts business a good deal, it’s a difficult problem. As you know, in the autumn I was all for sending the whole sum to the Aunts, but since then I have changed my mind.
I object in principle to helping to send a large sum of money to germany at the present time. I think the National question comes before any family question, and, that over and above an adequate allowance to be sent to the aunts, the money should be kept in England.
On the other hand I do not consider that we have any right to appropriate it for our private benefit and this I shall certainly not do.
As Uncle Ernest treated me as a niece in his will, I have the same obligations and no more right to stick to the money than any of you have.
I have thought of one or two plans but have not absolutely decided what to do yet; as soon as I have, I shall, as you suggest, write and tell Aunt Justina.
I have been thinking this out and came to these conclusions myself. I did not really discuss the matter with Montie till your letter came the other day. I then showed him the letters and explained it to him. He thinks the same as I do.
I am sure we shall be glad when the whole thing is satisfactorily settled.
We are quite delighted with this place, it suits us in every way. One day I hope you will see it, and the country all round is beautiful.
We are coming up to London, 15, Sloane St, for a week and I hope we shall see you. I want you to meet Montie.
With love to Aunt Violet and yourself and hoping you are both well.
Your affectionate niece,
P.S. Do you wish me to return the letters?

I do not have any record of the actual date on which the Family Gathering took place, but it must have been between 1920 and 1923.

9th January, 1924

Dear Dr Becherer,
I beg to acknowledge your last letter which was not dated. You will pardon me if I do not enter into all the questions therein referred to. What really concerns us both is the voluntary allowance which, as I told you in my letter of the 21st December, I would endeavour to secure for Mrs Alice Nohring.
Mr Charles Burch and my sister, Mrs Rose Morley, came here this afternoon. Mr Burch was unable to state definitely what his sisters were prepared to do because he had had no opportunity of consulting them, but he agreed in principle to the proposal I put before him, namely that which I detailed to you in my letter of the 21st December. The sum therefore which was agreed upon in principle as a voluntary allowance from the two families is £1000 per annum. Of this my three sisters, Comtesse de Gautier Vignal, Mrs Rose Morley, Mdm Marie de Marwitz, and I will provide £500 in the following manner:–
We shall each give instructions to our bankers to send an exchange draft or other instrument negotiable in Berlin for £31.5.0 each quarter, to Mrs Alice Nöhring at the address she has given us, under registered cover. The dates upon which these drafts will be sent will be the 5th February, the 5th May, the 5th August and the 5th November, those being the dates upon which we receive the income from the trustees of my late uncle’s estate.
In accordance with this arrangement, I am today giving instructions to my bank to send that amount, namely £21.5.0 on the 5th February next, to Mrs Alice Nöhring, and my sisters will do the same.
Now as to the two servants of my late Aunt Justina Rodenberg. I discussed this at length with my sister and Mr Charles Burch and we all of us came to the conclusion that the two families are not prepared to provide the £800. This being the case I suggested that instead of providing the capital sum, we should contribute between us the interest upon it. This suggestion was again in principle agreed to by Mr Charles Burch. In so far as my sisters and I are concerned, we shall hereafter provide at the rate of 6% on £400, which is half of the amount for the two servants, and you will receive on the 5th day of each quarter, as above, a bill of exchange or banker’s cheque for the £6.0.0 representing the share from our branch of the family of the interest on the capital in question. This would therefore, as you observe, be £14.0.0 a year, which is 6% on £400 and this sum you will divide between the two servants, obtaining from them receipts in due course, which doubtless you would hold at our disposal, if required. In accordance with this arrangement, I am writing my bankers to-day to send you a draft for £6 on the 5th February next.
I have now done all that it is in my power to do, and you will understand that I cannot be responsible for the decision come to by the other branch of the family. I am, however, writing to my niece, Mrs Esmé Montague-Cook, enclosing a copy of this letter, and it is possible that she will also send a contribution. I do not feel however that I can bring any pressure to bear upon her in the matter.
Mr Charles Burch to whom I am also sending a copy of this letter, will communicate with you direct.
Believe me, with best compliments,
Yours faithfully,

18, Cambridge Square,
Hyde Park, W.2.

8th January, 1924

My dearest Esme,
I am afraid I have very much neglected you this Christmas and New Year, but I am an awfully bad hand at this sort of thing which Violet and I don’t in any sense keep up as it were. I hope all goes well with you and yours, and that you have been having a jolly time. When I see you I must ask you what I can do to make amends for my neglect of the children this Christmas.
I enclose you a copy of a letter I have written to Dr Becherer, Aunt Justina’s lawyer in Berlin. It explains itself, and I must leave it to you to decide what you want to do. You know quite well that I have never felt you were under an obligation to provide more than a small part of the money sent to the Aunts, and the same applies to Alice. At the same time, I feel that it is the duty of the two families to provide Alice with an adequate income. You had better discuss all this with Montie, and if you wish to do so, with Charlie, who will tell you what he and his sisters are going to do. So far as my sisters and I are concerned, the matter is settled as you see by the copy of the letter I have enclosed.
With much love from Violet and myself to you and yours, and every good wish for the New Year.
Yours affectionately,

18/09/1924 death of Jenny Schiff

I don't think Jenny Schiff can in practice have benefitted from the generosity and thoughtfulness of her brother Sir Ernest. Throughout his life he had been in the habit of writing every week to his sisters in Hamburg. These letters were carefully kept, but were sadly disposed of after Jenny's death, the contents lost, and the envelopes sold to collectors. I occasionally see them offered for sale on Ebay. I do have a copy of Jenny's will, and of the detailed inventory of all the contents of the sisters' home at 38, The Esplanade, Hamburg, thanks to the kindness of my friend Claudia Peterson of Hamburg.

Richard Nöhring and his wife leave Germany for America.


The Obituary of Richard Nöhring.

ostby Mary S Taylor » Tue Apr 22, 2008 8:53 pm
Monterey Peninsula Herald, CA Aug 19, 1968 p4 
Richard Paul Nohring, co-owner of Merle’s Treasure Chest on Ocean avenue at Lincoln street and a resident of Carmel for the past 38 years, died yesterday in a local hospital after an extended illness. Mr. Nohring was born Aug. 31, 1900, in Berlin, Germany, and was a naturalized citizen of the United States. With his wife and only survivor, Mrs. Matha Nohring, he made his home at Dolores street and 14th avenue. Private inurnment has been held in the Little Chapel by-the-Sea. The Paul Mortuary was in charge of arrangements. Friends wishing to make contributions in the memory of Mr. Nohring may do so to the Colbalt Therapy Unit, Community Hospital, Carmel.
Copyright (c) 2008 The Monterey County Herald

This long extract from Hansard, a verbatim record of a meeting of the House of Lords in 1953 to discuss proposed amendments to the Enemy Property Bill, covers in considerable detail the injustice of the treatment of Richard Nöhring, not only by his relations, but also by the problems of interpretation of English law. His relations in England continued to benefit from considerable wealth, while he was forced to flee his native Germany and make a new life with no financial support in America.

HANSARD 1803–2005 18 June 1953  Lords Sitting
HL Deb 18 June 1953 vol 182 cc1063-148 1063
§2.35 p.m.
§Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Mancroft.)
§On Question, Motion agreed to.
§House in Committee accordingly:
§[The EARL Of DROGHEDA in the Chair]
§Clause 1:
§Circumstances in which sections 2 and 3 are to apply

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has explained his concern with this matter, and it does no doubt arise because of a statement which he made when he represented the Board of Trade in the last Government and when I moved the Amendment to which he has referred. But I should explain that I moved that Amendment because my attention was called to what appeared to be an injustice, certainly a very unfortunate result arising from a will. The will in question was the will of Sir Ernest Schiff, who died in November, 1918, just when the first war was closing. He had the shrewd idea that there might be legislation in this country which would affect the rights of the beneficiaries under his will to enjoy his bequests. Therefore, in his will he made a curious provision which, as it turns out, does not confer the benefit upon a particular beneficiary which he no doubt intended, but would have that effect if the noble Lord's Amendment were adopted.
I will just read the clause in the will. It states: If, as a result of legislation in Great Britain owing to the present war"— it was just before the end of the First World War— any of the beneficiaries under this my Will who are German subjects are precluded from taking such interests as I have by this my Will bequeathed to or for their benefit, then I direct that the interests which they would, but for such legislation, have been entitled to take shall be held by my Trustees upon trust to pay the income if such interests consist of income and the income of the capital of such interests if the same consists of capital to my said nephews and nieces who are not German subjects in equal shares until such time as the said beneficiaries who are German subjects are able by reason of any further legislation to take their interests under this my Will. This was a very ingeniously drawn clause, and the effect of it was that other persons, not the beneficiaries whom he intended to benefit, got the advantage of the provisions of his will so long as there was legislation in Great Brtitain by which the beneficiaries who were German subjects were precluded from taking their interests.
I believe the gentleman who was concerned in this matter was Mr. Noehring, who was a German subject on January 10, 1920, when the Peace Treaty came into force. The contention was raised on his behalf in the Court of Chancery many years afterwards, in 1948, that really the condition in this clause was satisfied and that the time had arrived when the beneficiaries who are German subjects"— which is what at the, time Mr. Noehring was— are able by reason of any further legislation to take their interests under this my Will What was relied upon to establish that was that there was entered into in the year 1929 what was called the London Agreement, and the London Agreement—I have a copy in my hand—was an Agreement made between His Majesty's Government and the German Government which brought an end to the charges which the Custodian had over German property so far as that property was not already liquidated and disposed of.
The interest which Mr. Noehring was given under this will was held under this charge by the Custodian, and the contention in the Chancery Court was, "That is now got rid of, because of this Agreement." The learned judge before whom the case came said, in his judgment: It would seem that the aim and object of Clause 23 in providing for the restoration of German subjects' rights has been substantially achieved as from that date. I have now, however, to consider whether it was achieved by reason of any further legislation. That was the condition contained in the clause.
To that question I feel myself compelled with some reluctance to give a negative answer. Of course, the decision was quite right because the fact that we made an Agreement with Germany, ratified the Agreement and accepted it, is not the same thing as legislation. What was intended was legislation which put an end to the operation of the Treaty of Peace Order after the First World War, and not merely an Agreement of a diplomatic character with the German Government. That was why I put down my Amendment and why I have no doubt I got the highly favourable and encouraging answer from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, speaking for the then Government, who expressed the thanks of the Department for my having called attention to this matter. He described it as an injustice which ought to be remedied and, as I understood it, said that the Department would undertake to remedy it. It is no fault of his that that was not done, because the Government for which he spoke did not continue in power.
But here we have a new Trading with the Enemy Act. The clause which is now being moved would have the effect which Mr. Justice Vaisey regretted he could not say had been produced by entering into this diplomatic agreement with Germany. I therefore support what the noble Lord has said, because it seems to me that, it being admitted that it really is unjust that this property should still be under this ban, it is eminently fair and right that we should say, "It is true that this will be required as a condition that there should be further legislation which would remove the charge. There has not been further legislation; there has been only an international Agreement made and ratified. But here is the opportunity of carrying the thing through by means of further legislation." If this clause is included in the Bill, it will not operate to affect the previous situation, except in this sense: that it will produce the desired result by legislation and not merely by an international Agreement which has been ratified and which is accepted by Her Majesty's Government.
It seems to me very hard indeed that a man who is a beneficiary under a will, be he a German or be he not a German, should be told, no doubt quite rightly, by our courts that he is not entitled to claim this benefaction, the proceeds of this legacy, because there has been no further legislation to remove the charge which the Custodian had under the original Treaty of Peace. It seems very odd that in the year 1953 we should be discussing this, because we are here referring, not to the results of the last war but to the results of the war before. I quite understand a possible objection to this Amendment being "It is outside the scope of the Bill, because this Bill deals only with the charges that were created after the Second World War." But we cannot proceed in this purely technical atmosphere. The subject is difficult enough anyhow, but if it be the case that there is somebody living now who finds he cannot get the benefit which he was plainly entitled to get under this gentleman's will, because it can be truly said there has been no further legislation, then let us make the further legislation, and thereby give him his rights which he obviously was intended to have. Then everybody, I hope, will be satisfied.
There is an alternative relief which is suggested. It is said, "This is a subject for Private Bill legislation. You should promote a Private Bill and, if you do, it will not be opposed"—at least, so I understand. It is a perfectly idle offer. At this period of the Session, it is impossible to carry through both Houses a Private Bill of this sort. Here is an opportunity of doing what is the fair thing in an Act of Parliament dealing with this particular subject. It does not alarm me to be told that it would require alteration of the Long Title of the Bill. Well, alter it. It is quite simple, and if that is done, then it seems to me we shall be dealing fairly with this gentleman. I know nothing about him. I have no interest whatever in the matter, except that my attention was called to it, and I thought it right in the time of the last Government to put down my Amendment. I then received from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, a very encouraging reply, in which he admitted that there was a case here to be met, and assured me that steps would be taken to meet it. I am not in the least reproaching the noble Lord that it was not done, but I do say that Parliament, having those assurances before them, ought to see to it that this is now done by the Amendment which the noble Lord very properly and honourably moved.
§5.56 p.m.
This is not an Amendment which Her Majesty's Government can accept. The noble and learned Viscount, in the manner of the great advocate that he was and is, has referred to the fact that it is entirely outside the scope of the present Bill. He said, in effect, that that does not matter:—"Alter the Title to meet it." But surely it is a relevant consideration that what is now proposed is something absolutely alien to the purpose of the present Bill. We are dealing with indemnity for acts done in the course of the war of 1939 to 1951, when it came to an end. What the noble Lord seeks to do by this Amendment is to introduce, in effect, a repeal of the legislation giving effect to the Treaty of Peace of Versailles. This is something so utterly alien to the purpose of this Bill that I am rather astonished that the noble Lord has the hardihood to seek to introduce it.
Nothing could exceed the candour of the way in which this Amendment has been introduced, but the Amendment itself is not really a very candid Amendment for under cover of a general release of property, the single aim of it is to remedy what is alleged—and I say "alleged"—to be an injustice to a particular individual. Have your Lordships looked, I wonder, at the terms of this Amendment which is proposed? I will read it: No charge imposed or purported or sought to he imposed by the Treaty of Peace Act, 1919, or any order made thereunder upon any property rights or interests belonging to persons who were at the date of any such Act or order or had at any time previously since the 4th August, 1914, been German nationals shall after the commencement of this Act be enforced or have any effect. Anybody reading that would suppose that there was a substantial class of persons in regard to whom public policy demanded that those charges imposed by the Treaty of Peace should be released. No case is made for that at all. All we are told is that there is a particular person who, by reason of the terms of a particular will, has suffered, it is said, some injustice. But, in fact, the charges imposed by the Treaty of Peace of 1919 have not been exhausted. Although the charge dates, I should say, now from 1920, all the known property which is still subject to it has not yet been collected and realised, and this process cannot be completed until certain reversionary interests fall in. The repeal of this charge under the old Peace Treaty which is still extant is to be effected, according to this Amendment, without any argument at all, except that a particular person has suffered an injustice.
Now I have been trained in the belief that one should not assert, still less decide, that a particular person has suffered an injustice until one hears the other side; and in this case this particular gentleman alleges that legislation should be passed in his favour, which will have the effect of depriving other beneficiaries under the will of Sir Ernest Schiff of income which they, under his will, are at present enjoying. There may be very good reasons which they can adduce why such legislation should not be passed, as a matter of general policy, to give particular relief to him. And who is there to speak for them? We hear of an injustice. Are they suffering from an injustice? Perhaps they are—I do not know. But I venture to think that it would he entirely wrong for this House under the colour of a general provision in favour of which no argument has been adduced, to give relief to a particular person at the expense of other particular persons whose plea your Lordships have not heard. That would be the result of passing such legislation as this.
I fully sympathise with the position of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. The words that he used on the earlier occasion—and I cannot but think that my noble and learned friend Lord Simon must hake been surprised and gratified at the sympathy which he gained—were that the Law Officers of the Crown and other interested parties would look into this matter, and that it would be thoroughly studied with a view to proceeding somewhat upon the lines which the noble and learned Viscount wished. Well, it was looked into, and I understand that as a result of its being examined, by both the Ministers and the Law Officers of the last Government, it was said that the Government would not introduce legislation but, subject to certain necessary safeguards, they would not themselves oppose the introduction of a Private Bill, and if there were such a Private Bill, the other private persons interested in the income of this property would have an opportunity of appearing and presenting their views to the Committee of the House. Nobody will suggest that the noble Lord has in any way failed in any undertaking that he gave. He suggested that some attack might be made upon his honour. I am sure nobody would dream of doing anything of that kind. He has done everything that he could, and my only criticism, if I ventured upon one, would be that he went rather further than he might in his answer to the noble Viscount. But I suggest that it would be utterly wrong to introduce an Amendment of this kind into this Bill in general terms affecting many people, for the only purpose of remedying a supposed injustice to a particular person and at the risk of doing substantial injustice to other persons who are at present enjoying the income which he seeks to enjoy. Accordingly, although having some sympathy with this gentleman, I cannot possibly advise that this Amendment should be accepted.
I am much obliged to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, for explaining the point of view which he has just expounded. I shall not seek to argue with him, but I would just invite the Committee to consider these two further facts. When I introduced my proposal I said that my attention had been called to a decision of the Chancery Judge, the effect of which was to deprive this gentleman of his property on the ground that there was, as yet, no legislation which satisfied the terms of the will—because it was not by reason of any further legislation that the charge disappeared, but because there had been an Agreement, which I have here. The London Agreement binding the Government, was made on December 28, 1929, and was ratified on May 8, 1930; and it contains the proviso that the Government of the United Kingdom will release and where necessary re-transfer to the original German owners, or to the persons deriving title through them, the property rights and interests originally belonging to them and now subject to the charge created in pursuance of the Treaty of Versailles in so far as such property rights and interests shall not be already liquid or liquidated or finally disposed of … That Agreement bound His Majesty's Government and their successors and was, in itself, a removal of the clog on this gentleman's claim. He therefore, very naturally, thought that he would now be entitled to enjoy this property. But the answer was: "No, you are not entitled to enjoy it, as the Chancery Court have decided" (I have no doubt rightly), "that the release of your property has not been secured by reason of any further legislation."
I will not comment on that distinction, which is a genuine one, and on which I think the Chancery Judge was quite right in insisting; but it is not surprising that the gentleman then looks to us in a legislative capacity to make good that which His Majesty's Government have already promised and, indeed, done in their diplomatic capacity. That was the reason that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, used the language which he did. Having called attention to this particular case, I see from the OFFICIAL REPORT (Vol. 165, Col. 1490), that he assured me that his reply was going to be even more satisfactory than I could ever hope for. My noble friend went on to say:We are going to express to the noble and learned Viscount our grateful thanks for having drawn attention to something that does need rectifying. That is the statement made by the Government of the day, and now I seek to support the proposal to rectify it. I admit the observation that it is seeking something for the sake of one individual, and that it would not therefore be appropriate to a Bill of this sort, which deals with the results of the Second World War. I should have thought, however, that it was possible to take the view that in this matter we really must make assurances good. We must really see to it that somebody who has asked for an assurance and has been given it, finds that assurance is satisfied.
It is quite true that you should not decide in favour of one man if other people with opposing interests would be injured but the London Treaty has removed anything of that sort. The rivals to this gentleman who are suggested to have a conflicting interest cannot have an interest because there is a Treaty which has put an end to the charges so far as not yet carried out under the Treaty of Peace. For those reasons, I should have thought that there was a great deal to be said, in common sense and in common justice, for including a clause such as Lord Lucas has proposed. I hope the Committee will excuse me for emphasising those two considerations, because I feel, as I am sure the Committee do, more concerned to see that Parliament does what is fair and right in things of this sort than that we should reject such proposals on what are perfectly good grounds in themselves, but are not necessarily the grounds which should move us in endeavouring to deal with a man who is suffering from a grievance.

I am puzzled by this case. If I correctly understood the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, one of his arguments was that there would be a number of other cases which would be affected if this Amendment were carried. But if I understood the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, aright, in fact all the other cases have been dealt with by the Treaty between this country and Germany, and it would seem that there is only this one isolated case remaining. If it is true that there is only this one isolated case, and it exists by the chance that it was not necessary to have any legislation in order to implement the Agreement of 1928, surely there is a case for accepting either this or some other Amendment which will have legislative effect and will enable the bequest to be carried out.
I have made further inquiries, and I have explicit information that although the charge dates from 1920, all the property known to be still subject to it has not yet been collected and realised; that this process cannot be completed until certain reversionary interests fall in, and that the repeal of the charge before this stage has been reached would represent a loss to the Exchequer. It is clear that a number of persons will be affected, and that this provision will cover them, although no word of argument has been said in favour of it. If it is intended to deal with the case of this gentleman only, why not have it in the Bill? Why not put it in the Bill that Mr. Noehring—if that is his name—shall have his property released from the charge? I do not think anyone would venture to do it.
May I venture to intervene for a moment? This is not, of course, a matter on which I am going to get heated. But surely the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, cannot have examined the London Agreement.
I have read the London Agreement over and over again.
May I be permitted to read again just one sentence from Article I?
The Government of the United Kingdom will … release and where necessary re-transfer to the original German owners, or to the persons deriving title through them, the property rights and interests originally belonging to them and now subject to the charge created in pursuance of the Treaty of Versailles in so far as such property rights and interests shall not be already liquid or liquidated or finally disposed of, on the date on which this Agreement comes into force.There cannot be any question of applying the Order to release German property which was affected at the end of the First World War now, because if it is property in that position it is not property which is already liquidated. Therefore this is really, as my noble friend opposite said, a case which can be met by general legislation, though it will operate only in a particular case.
If that were the case, it would be much better to put it in that form. I have made further inquiries, and I know that there has been a great deal of discussion between the two Governments as to the effect of the words "liquid" and "liquidated." It is the fact—I assure your Lordships of this, for I have made inquiries from the Department concerned—that there is a quantity of property still subject to the charge which has not been collected or realised. Whether it is "liquid" or "liquidated" is another matter. But that is the fact. And it is also the fact that this Amendment, if accepted, will affect a number of persons with regard to whose cases no argument has been heard. I can only tell your Lordships this upon information from the Department which is officially concerned—and indeed I know it to be so. The answer I think is that after the London Agreement of 1929, speaking from a rather dim memory (I had a good deal to do with this branch of the law at the time, as the noble Lord will remember), my recollection is that there was a good deal of discussion as to the meaning of the words "liquid" and "liquidated" after that Agreement had been signed. I feel your Lordships should hesitate extremely to come to any conclusion upon this matter upon any other assumption than that the authoritative information which I have is correct, and that this clause in its terms will cover—I will not say a great number for I do not want to use a big expression—a number of cases. Play I, with great respect, ask the noble Lord responsible for the Amendment, if he really aims only at doing justice to a particular gentleman, why not let the Amendment deal with that particular gentleman?
Would not that make this a somewhat hybrid Bill? I think if anyone put forward an Amendment which was manifestly designed to release one gentleman, the answer which the authorities who advise the Lord Chancellor would give would be, "This makes the Bill a hybrid Bill."
The noble and learned Viscount may be right about that, but it could not really make it a more curious Bill than this Amendment would, for it would then deal with two wholly different subjects. As I have said, whether or not the Attorney-General has given an undertaking, I am not sure, but as I understand it, his present idea is that if a Private Bill were put forward he would not oppose it on behalf of the Government. It might, of course, be opposed on behalf of the other beneficiaries, but that is another matter. In view of all these considerations I hope that the noble Lord will not press this Amendment.
What I was seeking to do was not for the particular benefit of any particular individual. I was seeking to obtain from Her Majesty's Government the statement which the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, made at the end of his first speech. I wanted those matters made public. I wanted publicity given to the reasons why the Government of the country had not done anything. On the statement I made the Government undertook to do something. I hope that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, will not mind my saying this. I think he was rather hard upon me in implying that this was hardly a straightforward Amendment. This Amendment was drawn up by one of the most eminent firms of solicitors in London, and it was designed only to serve that one particular purpose. I told Her Majesty's Government, I told the Lord Chancellor himself, and I told the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, that I was going to move this Amendment. I explained the purpose I had in moving it. I explained all that I wanted to do. Whether the Amendment would confer benefits on a single person or on 60,000 people is no concern of mine.
There is another thing which I think I must correct. The noble Lord said that perhaps when I gave this undertaking I went too far. The noble Lord and all your Lordships know that, perhaps with the possible exception of the reigning Lord Chancellor, anyone has to take instructions from the Law Officers of the Crown upon these very highly technical legal points. I can assure the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor that I did not say anything except that which I was instructed to say, though I wrapped it up in a very nice way because I wanted to succeed in doing the one thing in which I was, in fact, successful in doing—that was to get the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon, at that time to withdraw his Amendment. If that does not appeal to the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, as a lawyer, it will appeal to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, as a politician. The matter has now been settled so far as I am concerned. I should never dream of expressing an opinion as between the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Simon. I feel it is hard that the noble Lord should say that he is surprised I had the hardihood to put down this Amendment. I now have the hardihood to withdraw it. I hope that the flurry that has gone round my head will be beneficial to the general public. No doubt it will remain food for the legal profession for many years to come. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§Clause 15 agreed to.

§6.21 p.m.

Footnote 25th January, 2017
It is clear now from family papers that have been shared with me that Alfred Schiff's daughter Marie de Marwicz found a way around the legal problems associated with Sir Ernest Schiff's will. She divorced her husband who had been a German national, reassumed British nationality, received her very generous inheritance, and then remarried her husband.

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