Born to a large, middle-class Jewish family in Prague in 1877, Erwin Altschul was introduced to the glove-making trade from an early age. His father ran a factory in the city and when he later moved to Vienna, Erwin stayed in Prague to look after the family business. It was in 1938, when Prague was occupied by the Nazis, that Erwin’s factory was confiscated, and he was left with no income to provide for him and his family. He and his wife decided to seek refuge in the UK, where they quickly settled in Cardiff.
Document showing the Nazi occupation of Erwin Altschul’s factory in Prague, 1938.
The company name (Firmenname) is listed as ‘Erwin Altschul’. It is listed as a ‘leather gloves factory’ (Lederhandschuhfabrik). The factory is recorded as having a worth (Wert) of 1,811,459.40 Czechoslovak Koruna.
Image credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Selected Records from Central State Archives in Prague, 1939-1945; Record Group: RG-48.008M; File Name: rg-48.008m.0114.00000438.
Image source Ancestry.
The British government had introduced a scheme whereby Jewish business owners in Nazi-occupied Europe were encouraged to relocate to impoverished areas in the UK, such as south Wales, in an attempt to boost industry and employment. Erwin Altschul was one such business owner, establishing the Western Gloves factory in Treforest. The Treforest Industrial Estate just outside of Cardiff is a prime example of the benefits this scheme had for British industry and the communities it served. Reports show that by May 1940 “fifty-five Jewish refugee firms were in operation at Treforest, employing 1,800 people”.
Newspaper extract from Western Mail, 5 August 1939, showing the establishment of Western Gloves at the Treforest Industrial Estate, listing Erwin Altschul as a director.
Image credit: Western Mail/ Media Wales.
Image source The British Newspaper Archive.
The factory was initially located on the Treforest Industrial Estate, known as B Altschul Gloves, but moved to Victoria Park in Caerphilly by 1958 where was called Astoria Gloves, and later Western Gloves.
The factory saw great success and was a “Listed Exhibitor” in the 1947 British Industries Fair in London, selling capes and gloves for both men and women. They went on to make gloves for Marks & Spencer, Woolworths, and other big brand names of the time.
Workers in one of the glove-making factories on the Treforest Industrial Estate,
most of which were Jewish owned.
Erwin Altschul died in 1949, leaving the highly successful company to his wife, Anita (Annie) Maria, and children. It the mid-1960s, the company was one of the biggest glove factories in the country.
Following an Extraordinary General Meeting on 15 January 1973, the business was wound up voluntarily that same year.
Erwin and Margarete's gravestone in Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff.
Image credit: JHASW/CHIDC
Written by Sarah Belger, JHASW/CHIDC volunteer.
 Cai Parry-Jones, ‘The History of the Jewish Diaspora in Wales’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Bangor University, 2014) in Bangor University Research Portal <https://research.bangor.ac.uk/portal/files/20579001/null> [accessed 3 September 2020] p. 132.  Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, Astoria Gloves (2016) <https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Astoria_Gloves> [accessed 10 September 2020].
‘A. M. A. Glove Company Limited’, in The London Gazette, 22 January 1973, in The Gazette: Official Public Record <https://www.thegazette.co.uk/> [accessed 17 September 2020]
Ancestry, Erwin Altschul: in the Prague, Czechoslovakia, Selected Holocaust Records, 1939-1945 (USHMM) (2020) <https://search.ancestry.co.uk/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60551&h=36605&queryId=6f6417bd613327e0e3201ee2b3a26668&usePUB=true&_phsrc=zfd1032&_phstart=successSource&nreg=1;&nreg=1> [accessed 10 September 2020]
Every Valley, dir. by Michael Clarke (BTF Production, 1957), online film recording, BFI Player <https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-every-valley-1957-online> [accessed 10 September 2020]
Friends of Cathays Cemetery (@FriendsOfCathaysCemetery, 10 May 2019), ‘This weekend marks 70 years since the death of Erwin Altschul […] a memoir “Boy 30529”. <https://www.imperial.ac.uk/n…/117808/tribute-felix-weinberg/><https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfCathaysCemetery/posts/2331326123586904?comment_id=2332550796797770&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D> [accessed 16 September 2020]
Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History, Astoria Gloves (2016) <https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Astoria_Gloves> [accessed 10 September 2020]
Hicks, Andrew, A Bit of Glowing History (2019) <https://www.thegloverscompany.org/index.php/150-a-bit-of-gloving-history> [accessed 10 September 2020]
Parry-Jones, Cai, ‘The History of the Jewish Diaspora in Wales’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Bangor University, 2014) in Bangor University Research Portal <https://research.bangor.ac.uk/portal/files/20579001/null> [accessed 3 September 2020]
‘Western Gloves (Manufacturing) Ltd’, Western Mail, 5 August 1939 <https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/account/register?countrykey=0&showgiftvoucherclaimingoptions=false&gift=false&nextpage=%2faccount%2flogin%3freturnurl%3d%252fviewer%252fbl%252f0000104%252f19390805%252f343%252f0014&rememberme=false&cookietracking=false&partnershipkey=0> [accessed 10 September 2020]