In the late 1800s, confectionary became a popular consumer product, and companies such built factories in the area providing a great deal of employment in the local community. Streimers Nougat was set up by Morris Streimer, a Jewish immigrant from Austria.
Streimer was born in Brody (circa 1857), then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and moved to England around 1888. Streimer founded his nougat factory shortly after this time in High Street and Ward Road, West Ham and in 1898 moved to Victoria Street. He became one of the suppliers for Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition to Antarctica, with Nougat being high in sugar and calorie content it provided an ideal energy boost for the travellers on their survival mission. Streimer was also involved heavily in local politics, serving both as Alderman for several years and Mayor of West Ham in 1927/28, and he was also chairman of the Brody temporary relief fund in 1915.
Streimer’s home town of Brody (then part the Austro-Hungarian empire, now in Ukraine) was a strategically important crossing point for Jewish refugees from Russia, as it was places such as this where the railway gauge switched from Russian standard to the Central European one, and historically the town had for several years been an important centre of Jewish trade and international activity. During the First World War Brody was attacked and burned by the Russian army, a tragedy documented by the journalist Solomon Ansky who described the ‘burned and desolate cottages’ and ‘blackened chimneys and burned walls as far as we could see’.
With close to 70% of the population Jewish, many found themselves forced to flee the city and it was these newly destitute refugees that Streimer’s relief fund attempted to provide for. Hundreds of Jews around the world can trace their roots to Brody, with many adopting the surname Brodsky, Brodski, Brodskiy, Brodisch (meaning simple Brody or from Brody), and there are no doubt many living today who can trace their roots to these Brody refugees from the First World War who owe their existence partly to the humanitarian mission of Streimers relief fund.
Together with his role in supplying the polar expedition, work in local government and his role as an employer of local people, Morris Streimer is surely a figure worthy of celebration for his contribution to the borough and beyond.