Meyer Ilse and Ernst

Ilse and Ernst Meyer

llse Meyer, born 1907, was part of a wide and extended Jewish Communist family which was forced to leave Germany when the Nazis came to power. She moved to Britain on October 1st 1933 and was acknowledged as one of the first refugees from Nazi oppression by the British government.


Ilse and her then husband Ernst, an accomplished composer, lived in Hampstead. Ernst became a close and life-long friend of Alan Bush in these years (see separate entry). But, with no permit to stay, or ability to work, both Ilse and her husband had to reapply to remain in the country every six months, and there was always the fear they would be expelled.  Ilse was evacuated to Cambridge with her daughter Eva Simmons during the war, later returning to the borough to work as a translator and English and German teacher until she retired in her seventies.

Ernst Hermann Meyer had received his first piano lessons at the age of six, and started composing at the age of eleven, eventually obtaining a musicology PhD. In the UK he researched English chamber music of the 17th century and lectured for the Workers Educational Association. He was a lecturer at Bedford College, London from 1939 and, in 1945, Ernst was given a guest professorship at King's College, Cambridge.


The couple amicably parted when Ernst returned to East Germany in 1948, where he became one of the most influential figures of music culture in the GDR. He was also active politically as a Communist.  His compositions include choral, orchestral and chamber music.  Ernst returned to Berlin, where he would also remarry and die in 1988.


Ilse became the partner of trade union official John Carter, who died suddenly in the 1970s when he was in his Sixties.

A regular contributor to the Morning Star, Ilse was an avid supporter of the Communist Party, the Ethical Society and the Humanist Association. She died aged 101


Sources include: Camden New Journal 7th August 2008




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