I was born on the 9th December 1916 in Kreigshaber which is on the outskirts of Augsburg, (Bavaria, Germany).
We lived in a very spacious villa. We lived on the first floor and Lee (Fischer ) and her parents lived on the ground floor.
My parents were very loving well adjusted people and in our home there was harmony. We did a lot of things together, going walks, going swimming and all sorts of things.
We were not terribly Orthodox but we still had a kosher household. We closed our business on all holidays, we went to the Synagogue on all holidays. We were in a way very observing,and (Jewish) religion was a big part of our every day life.
I was an only child but I never missed the company of other children as I had a lot of cousins who lived all very close. My father had six brothers and they all lived in the same street only about a couple of hundred yards from each other and they all had families so there was always plenty of cousins to play with. And of course with Lee and her parents living in the same house.
Lee had a brother Sigbert who unfortunately died when he came to Great Britain, were my little cousins, were eight years younger than me and I had a lot of fun with them – taking them out in the pram. When they were older we were all very close. That is why I am still very close to my Cousin Lee; after all we have grown up together.
When I was six years old I went to the local school – which lucky for me was just across the road from us and I stayed there for four years. I was quite a good pupil and quite ambitious – I enjoyed my school days.
When I was Ten I went to school into Augsburg and it was a Lyceum – Girls Only and it was where I stayed for Six years and graduated there. My school days were all very enjoyable and there was neither any anti Semitism nor anything, especially in the School in town when we came to the later classes. We were twelve pupils and out of the twelve pupils six of them were Jewish. So, there could not have been much anti Semitism.
After six years we graduated with white caps and buns (wraps) round the shoulders. There was always a big ball for the graduates. The mothers usually came as your chaperon but it was most enjoyable.
After school I went to a sewing class for a year and in Augsburg we also had a Jewish sports club. It was originally only a tennis club which we all joined, but later on as we could not join any other clubs any more. They extended the club and they had all sorts of gymnastic and sports as there was plenty of room there. There was also a club house. All the Jewish people of Augsburg, all the young ones congregated there, and it was a nice friendly atmosphere. We had chats, we played ball we played hand ball, running and tennis and all the things we wanted to do – it was most enjoyable.
After I had been to the sewing school my parents thought it would be a good idea if I was going a bit away from home for my further education. They put an advert in the paper – it was a big Jewish paper in Germany called the Chameleon Blatt. Looking for a place where you didn’t earn any money and you didn’t pay – just more or less what you call ( house keeping paid money for food and lodgings ). “House Daughter”.
A couple from Leipzig answered and I went to them and they were actually very nice people. They had one son and they worked in the fur trade. As they had to come from the East, and we all (our family) had lived in Germany all our life it was quite a different life there all together.
I was desperately home sick – I was so home sick I went to the station to see the trains go away.
I didn’t tell my parents that I was so homesick. But one day my uncle who lived in Nuremberg came up to Leipzig on business and visited me and realised how homesick I was. He said straight I should pack my case and come back home.
Why I was so home sick I really did not know but I was literally ILL with being homesick.
When I came back to Augsburg I joined a firm who sold wine and spirits to pubs and to smaller shops, and I got a job there in the office. As a matter of fact I was a proper apprentice, and I saw my three years of apprenticeship – I very much liked it there. Because in my free time I went a lot to the jewish sports club and we went swimming. Some of our friends had a house in the country where we all went. I always had a lot of friends to go out with.
It all went very well until the 9th November came along – (1938 – Kristallnacht Reichs Progrom) There was no anti Semitism and we were really not all that worried about things. When I came to work that day the foreman of the firm said to me that I should go home and not come back. So of course we soon knew then what had happened to all the Jewish businesses they were all being taken over and a lot of people were arrested.
My father was very lucky he was not arrested – I do not know why. Somehow they must have overlooked him. Two of his brothers were arrested, he and the other brothers were not arrested, which was of course a big bonus. Most of the people who were arrested were went to Dachau (Concentration Camp) and stayed there for a quite a while.
It was a bitter cold winter and people there had a very rough time I myself was very eager to get out of Germany and wrote to all possible relations abroad to get an affidavit or to get some papers. I forgot to mention I had a boyfriend, Berthold Westheimer who lives now in the States and we were really very close. We were not engaged but it was kind of understanding that we would get married. He was lucky he had papers already to go to America so he left the country already before the 9th November. (Kristallnacht)
I had a cousin (Max) in South Africa – the son of one of my uncle’s who lived in Germany, who had some business connections in Great Britain, in Bradford. And one of his daughter’s friends wanted two maids and they were good enough to give us papers so I and my friend, Irene, got the papers and we could then go to Bradford. We got all our things together – I knew very little about Irene (Mendlick) , because Irene lived in Stuttgart and we lived in Augsburg. I knew her sister better because she used to come in school holidays to my aunt and we would play together – but I knew very little of Irene.