INT: Alright and when you arrived in Scotland, when did you come to Scotland?
LL: I came
INT: What age were you?
INT: 26 years old?
INT: Yes. How did you get to Scotland and why did you come here?
LL: I was in London and I got married in Scotland
INT: To a Scottish…?
LL: No, a Jewish refugee
INT: A Jewish refugee. And where did you meet?
LL: In London the day war broke out
LL: In Woburn house on another occasion a gentleman was sitting beside me and we got talking and we had dinner together and he said he was there to try and get permits for his parents from Vienna – he was Viennese, from Vienna. He was there because he had connections. By this time I was 18 (it was 1938) He can help, he can do this and that…He was, he pretended to be very friendly with Stafford Cripps who was very famous in those days. Anyhow, I thought, he can do something for my parents etc, I better not lose this contact (because you needed it) and we got married.
My father sent over from Holland his brother to come to London to see who this man is! See whether or not, you know! This brother, apart from lots of other people – ‘Wonderful, wonderful!’ It turned out he was not so wonderful. He did not say an honest word and he did not only take me in he took this brother of my father (who was in his 60’s) and various other prominent business people – he stole from them all.
LL: We got married in December ’38 when I was 18 coming on for 19, when I was 18. And it lasted until I was 26 because I had the greatest difficulties in getting a divorce. The divorce laws were completely different in these days, very difficult to get a divorce It took six years. The case had to be taken to the House of Lords for the divorce laws to be changed before I could get a divorce.
INT: So, I was asking about your social life when you were in London?
LL: Yes, it was very pleasant.
INT: Mainly Jewish? Or non-Jewish?
LL: Mostly Jewish, there was the odd non-Jewish one. I wasn’t selective but it happened to be.
INT: So what kind of things did you do?
LL: We mainly went to each others’ houses. We went to the pictures. I mean, money was short with everybody and heating was expensive and everything. We lived a normal life, not like teenagers live now. We didn’t buy clothes or anything, which we didn’t need because you could bring a lot out of Germany. That was one thing you had, that was clothes. So shopping didn’t come into it.
INT: So your, your parents were in Germany?
LL: My parents by that time were already in a camp. They emigrated from Germany to Holland and they were taken to camps from Holland.
INT: Ok we’ll maybe go back over that later. I want to continue with life in London. So, you worked
INT: In this one job
INT: Really for a good 5 or 6 years
LL: Yes, yes until ‘46
INT: And you were living..?
LL: And I lived together with my aunt in a flat which we had rented. We had no real…the landlord didn’t live in the house so we had the top floor.
INT: So yes, so after the war finished you got married ( to your second husband)
LL: So that was a little struggle
INT: Yes my goodness! So how did, I take it you weren’t working at that time then?
LL: Yes I was
INT: What were you doing?
LL: I was a secretary in various companies, big companies. First in a textile firm. They were Jewish and were very good, very nice people. The owner of the firm, Romanov, called me in one day and said ‘Look here, you can stay with us, there’s absolutely no question. But if you want to become naturalized after the war it’s not good enough for you, you must have done some war work’
LL: So he did it in his best to advise me. I said ‘Thank you very much, I will do something’ and I went to the Labour Exchange looking for a job and I said ‘I’m prepared to do almost anything. I don’t want to join the army (which was suggested –the Pioneer Core, I said no thank you) but I’ll do anything. I’ll go under buses, it doesn’t matter’.
Anyhow they got me a job in a firm in Baker Street which was quite convenient. So I turn up and there were several girls sitting there in a fairly darkish room and I’m looking for somebody and they said ‘Oh don’t worry, don’t worry, take your time’ and do this first, and make-up… And I said ‘No, I want to do some work’. I got a piece of cardboard this size and a pair of scissors and I had to cut out round certain circles. Now I thought to myself ‘I can’t do this, it’s driving me nuts!’ No boss arrived, nothing. I went again the next day, it was the same thing so I said ‘This I cannot do’. I asked to see the boss and the boss: ‘Oh no, this is only temporary. We are expecting the proper work to come’ I said ‘When is this going to be?’ ‘
Oh, anytime, anytime’ I said ‘Excuse me in the meantime. I’m really not very keen’ He said ‘That doesn’t matter if you are keen or not. I have your papers through the war office and you are here’ Again I thought this can’t go on. I knew very well a refugee gentleman. He was an expert in pensions and he was working for the British government so I spoke to him. His sister actually lived in Glasgow. I spoke to him and he said ‘Not at all’ He said ‘You go to him, you ask for your papers, if he refuses them it’s just too bad’ Then I’ve to take the matter up with someone else. The next day
INT: So he told you you were entitled to ask for your papers back?
LL: Yes, I’m entitled to ask for them. He’s entitled to hold them, he can send them back to the war office. You needed permits. Go back the next day and tell him and he was very downtrodden, very kind by that time and said ‘Now look here, if you stay with me for another…I don’t know, 3 days, because I have very important people coming and after that I give you your papers’ I said ‘I’m very sorry, I want the papers now and if I don’t get the papers I’m just going’ That was me. So that was it. I went back, this gentleman told me you first now go back to the labour office who gave you the job and tell them. Now they were appalled. It was a set up firm – they were doing tax evasions – that was all they did. There was never any work!
INT: So you discovered it pretty early on?
LL: After…I was there for less than a week. So they were very sorry but they had been diddled as well. But this meant then they were very careful what job to give me! Because I needed to work. I then got a job in a very… they made arms but also it was the one and only firm in Britain who made perforating machines for passports. A passport had all perforations in it these days, we don’t have that now. They were, our passport number was in perforation, nobody could change it or anything and they made parts for aircrafts. Wonderful job, absolutely terrific! Completely non-Jewish. I started my work there and my immediate boss was…he really ran the place. A Quaker. Fabulous man!
And he said to me right away ‘I am so glad you are not working as his secretary. You wouldn’t have much work to do but it’s not the thing to do’ I stayed with that firm until I got married (for 5 or 6 years), wonderful job!
INT: So you were happy there?
INT: So how, what was the reason for you and your husband to come to Scotland?
LL: Because my husband had a position waiting for him in Scotland
INT: How did that happen?
LL: I met my husband and a close friend of his at the same sandbag-filling party. They had been partners in a business in Germany.
So had their fathers already (been partners). Now these two fellows, both unmarried in London and the other one that never joined the army (he wasn’t fond of these kind of things, these sort of things), he saw a job advertised by the Scottish Co-Operative Wholesale Society, SCWS. He applied for this position in Glasgow, he went here, he got this position in a textile factory (they had lots of factories, the SCWS) and he made it a condition that when his former partner who is in the army gets de-mobbed he can join him in this position. So we came to Glasgow.
INT: Excellent, excellent
LL: Oh wonderful. I was now getting married you see. So my husband went in January, January ’46 to Glasgow and we got married in March. I thought everything was wonderful. It was the coldest winter we’ve had, since this year.
INT: So you got married in Glasgow?
INT: So looking back over the years that you’ve lived in Scotland what would you say were the highs? The best of times?
LL: We had a very bad spell in Glasgow. We had a very, very serious court case in Glasgow / being dealt with in Glasgow. We were certainly… It started in 1952 and finished in 1958. We were under pressure for 6 years, plus a newborn child and a mother in law in the house! Yes, it was a business matter, nothing private, a business matter. The SCWS wanted to do us in so we made a court case which lasted for 6 years.
INT: So it must have been a very harrowing time then with a young child?
LL: It was terrible and my husband was in the witness box for 3 full days, 8 hours at a time. It’s not easy because although you do nothing you have to watch the full thing all the time and some of the others kept on saying to their solicitor ‘You cannot listen to him, he doesn’t speak proper English’ and our solicitor said ‘Don’t be ridiculous, he can speak better English than you can’ You know, in court. I was never there. So we won the case. Our solicitor, a very famous Glasgow solicitor said right away ‘You have to reckon on it, that they will go against the result because the Co-op is so rich, they can do anything. They know that you can’t do it’ They went to take the case further. It went to the House of Lords and we won again.
It is something now which is taught to every law student, it is in every book; yes, it’s the Law of Minorities. Every lawyer knows about it immediately. We worked as I told you with the SCWS. Eventually, with their permission and everything, we started our own business together with them and they had 51% of the shares and we had 49 which meant, according to them, we had no say in the matter. But that was changed. The Law of Minorities was changed. Never must ever anybody do that.
INT: So that was a very, very bad time in your life?
LL: That was until ’58. We were under constant pressure. My husband worked all the time certainly, came home at night, you looked through papers, you re-read things, you know, this kind of thing. And after that we, once this was sorted out we started our own business without anybody. There was no partners, not, nobody!