Tributes paid to former Sheffield teacher who fled Nazis as a child in 1939

Tributes have been paid to a former Sheffield teacher and Kindertransport refugee who has died aged 92.

Tuesday, 8th December 2020, 12:30 pm

Sue Pearson, nee Ehrmann, was one of 10,000 children evacuated to safety in England ahead of World War Two and was fostered by a family in Sheffield where she later trained to be a teacher and lived up until her death on December 1, 2020.

Born into a Jewish family in the Czech Republic in 1928, Sue moved to Prague when she was four-years-old.

In June 1939, when she was 11, her parents bravely sent her to the UK as part of the Kindertransport programme – like most children who made the journey, she never saw them again as they became victims of the Holocaust.

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Sue Pearson was born Susanne Ehrmann in the Czech Republic and was evacuated to England from Prague in 1939 (picture: Jeremy Abrahams)

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She attended school in Sheffield and lived with her foster family until she was 16, training as a children’s nurse in London a year later but returning to the steel city again after the war ended.

In December 1945, then aged 17, she married Harry Pearson and the pair went on to have three daughters – Anne, Helen and Julia, fostering a further 15 children in the early 1960s.

A passion for education was a consistent theme throughout Sue’s life. She was a founding member and first chairperson of the Sheffield branch of Preschool Playgroups Association and later joined a teacher training course at Totley Hall College of Education before teaching at Park Hill Infant School.

Former teacher and Kindertransport refugee Sue Pearson has passed away aged 92

She also played a key-role in the lives of many children in the Park Hill area as headteacher at Grace Owen Nursery, a role she held for 14 years and one which contributed to her being awarded an MBE for services to education.

Elsewhere, Sue helped bring an Anne Frank exhibition to Sheffield and appeared alongside Sir Nicholas Winton MBE on a espisode of the BBC television programme ‘That's Life!’ with others who were rescued from Prague through Kindertransport arranged by Sir Winton.

Throughout her life she embraced opportunities to speak with children and adults about her story, speaking in schools and visiting the Beth Shalom National Holocaust Centre and Museum, near Newark.

In her words this was “to try and help them understand what can happen to ordinary people when they become the victims of racism and discrimination.”

Sue Pearson left her parents behind in Prague, becoming the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust, and was given a home in Sheffield (picture: Jeremy Abrahams)

Sue’s daughter, Helen Cowen, said her mum wanted to discuss, particularly with young people, the negativity of discrimination and how it can impact their own lives – sharing her experience and encouraging others to ask questions and explore the effect hatred of others can have in the present day.

Described as having a ‘lifelong commitment to Socialism and the Peace Movement’, Sue once said: “My Jewishness has become a positive part of myself, although I remain a non-believer. I remain on the left of politics, and like to think of myself as tolerant and anti-racist.”

Sadly, Sue lost her husband Harry in 2016 but loved spending time with her seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Describing her mum, Helen added: “She couldn’t get enough of her family. She was highly intelligent, very dynamic, a ‘people person’, passionate about early childhood and early education and always wanted to be doing something. She was very empathetic and extremely loving.

Sue Pearson spent much of her life in education and spoke about her own experience to educate others on racism, discrimination and the horrors of the Nazi genocide (picture: Jeremy Abrahams)

"She was massive in my life and will be missed by all her family and friends.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.