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Anti-Semitism in British public schools


Effect of anti-Semitism on my early academic life
Frederic Raphael Writer
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The reason why I had slipped... the alleged reason why I had slipped from fourth place on the roll of marks to 11th was because this mysterious thing called 'weight for age' allowed the manipulation of the roll in whatever way seemed good to the people who were determining who was going to get in and who wasn't. I have to say that when I have repeated this story in front of Wykhamists or to Wykhamist readers, they have all denied absolutely that anything of that kind was conceivably possible, and the French answer to that is et ta soeur. The fact of the matter is, that although the Holocaust was not well known, to put it mildly, in 1945, so far from the British, gallant supposedly as they had been in coming to the rescue of the Jews, were actually horrified at the prospect of Jews coming to England and even of being in England still. Anti-Semitism was very strong. The reaction of two great public schools to the end of the war and the possible influx of Jewish refugees from the continent to join families or others in England was, in the case of St Paul's, which had always had a very large Jewish intake – they introduced a numerus clausus and limited for the first time the number of Jews that entered the school – until, Isaiah Berlin, not the most courageous person in the world but in this case outspoken, objected strongly, and so did Eton make the stipulation overtly that the number of Jews would be limited to X percent. And in that case Freddie Ayer, who was then a professor of Oxford and a famous and quite pugnacious English sort of Jew – he was descended from the Citroëns who had made cars in France and Belgium, I think. Anyway, he objected to that and in both cases Berlin and Freddie Ayer, who were friends in philosophy, managed to get the schools at least to deny that they were going to introduce a numerus clausus which didn't, I'm sure, prevent them from doing it. Anyway, that's how that all that happened. In other words, the Winchester roll, after all the things that one had been through in taking all the papers, was actually rigged and nobody is ever going to persuade me otherwise.

Born in America in 1931, Frederic Raphael is a writer who moved to England as a boy. He was educated at Charterhouse School and was a Major Scholar in Classics at St John's College, Cambridge. His articles and book reviews appear in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Los Angeles Times and The Sunday Times. He has published more than twenty novels, the best-known being the semi-autobiographical The Glittering Prizes (1976). In 1965 Raphael won an Oscar for the screenplay for the movie Darling, and two years later received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for Two for the Road. In 1999, he published Eyes Wide Open, a memoir of his collaboration with the director Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay of Eyes Wide Shut, Kubrick's final movie. Raphael lives in France and England and became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1964.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Isaiah Berlin, AJ 'Freddie' Ayer

Duration: 2 minutes, 32 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2014

Date story went live: 13 August 2014