Stephen Hearst

Stephen Hearst

Vienna – London
1919 – 2010
Nationality: Austrian

Stephen’s Early Life

Stephen Hearst was born Stefan Hirschtritt in Vienna in October 1919. His father was a dental surgeon and the family led a comfortable life. Stephen studied medicine in Vienna and was still a student when Hitler came to power.

Stephen’s Journey

In early-1938, Austria was annexed by Germany. Stephen was Jewish and became politically active, distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets.

Hitler in Austria

Listen to Stephen Hearst talk about his attempts to undermine the Nazis and why he had to leave Austria. © IWM, no. 26500

He was eventually forced to flee Vienna and moved to live with relations in Trieste and Zurich before arriving in London in August 1938.

Arriving in London

Listen to Stephen talk about his first impressions of England and the press coverage events in Europe were receiving at that time. © IWM, no. 26500

At his tribunal in October 1939, Stephen was exempted from internment. In June 1940, following the fall of France and Italy’s entry into the war, he was arrested.

Stephen’s Arrest

Listen to Stephen talk about his arrest while at Reading. © IWM, no. 26500

After spells in temporary holding centres in Reading and Southampton, Stephen was taken to Warth Mills. He found himself with German and Austrian Jews, like himself, as well as a small number of German prisoners of war. Unfortunately, the camp commandant, Major Braybrook, struggled to distinguish between the pro and anti-Nazis.

Life at Warth Mills

Listen to Stephen reflect on the commandant at Warth Mills. © IWM, no. 26500

Life After Internment

When Stephen left Warth Mills in October 1940, he was allowed to join the only army corps open to refugees – the Pioneer Corps. Stephen also had to change his name from Hirschtritt and, given five minutes to decide, chose Hearst. He served in Italy and was then commandant of a PoW camp in Gaza.

Life After the War

When he returned to England, Stephen did a history degree at the University of Oxford. He joined the BBC as a trainee and eventually oversaw landmark television programmes like Civilisation and Alistair Cooke’s America. From 1972 to 1978, he was Controller of Radio 3.

Stephen Hearst was a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and received a CBE in 1980. He died in London in 2010, aged 90.

Next Internee

Peter Midgley

Berlin — London

Read more