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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Annie Frankl was born Anna Feiner to a middle class family in Budapest. Her father was a respected doctor and her mother worked in an office. Her father was also an amateur violinist who played in a Quartet. Annie parents had come from Gyöngyös, a city 80 kilometers away from Budapest. Annie’s grandmother lived with them in the flat in Budapest and took care of her while her parents worked. She started going to primary school and recalls cycling to school with her best friend. Annie recalls a happy childhood with close friends and family. One of her mother’s brothers emigrated to France in the early twenties. She cannot recall much details of the war years. The house where they lived became a Jewish house in 1944. Her father had been taken to forced labour before and escaped twice. Annie recalls one occasion where he came in the middle of the night and lifted her out of bed and hugged her. She remembered that he was wearing a strange uniform. In October 1944, the family was told to get ready for deportations. After a day of waiting outside, they were told to go back to their home. After this episode, the family decided not to take any more chances. This is when Annie’s uncle who was working in the wine trade, found a family who would hide Annie. Soon after, Annie was joined by her uncle, father, mother, and grandmother in hiding. Her uncle found another family who would take them and they left Annie with the first family. In the second family they were in hiding in a small space with ten other people. They were given food through a small hole and did not have enough space to lie down. During the siege of Budapest, Annie recalls spending a lot of time in the cellar and eventually being liberated by the Russians (who came through a hole from the next door building). Her parents had been liberated earlier and when her father came to pick her up, they were able to go back to their flat (which they had to share with another family). She was very happy that her nuclear family had survived. A big part of her larger family was killed in Auschwitz.
Annie went to primary school and then went to a Gymnasium where she learnt French. She also was accepted for the Liszt Academy and started playing the piano very seriously. At some point she was home schooled for three years to concentrate on her studies, before going to the Music Gymnasium. In 1956 she received a passport in order to visit her uncle in Paris. When the revolution happened a few weeks later, her father told her not to come back. One year later, her parents and grandmother joined her in Paris, where they were all classified as refugees. Annie studied at the Paris Conservatoir and met another pianist from Budapest, Peter Frankl, who she had known from childhood. They married in 1958. Together with her husband they decided in 1961 to move to the UK, as they felt his career chances were better in the UK. Her father became a doctor in a French sanatorium in the Alpes and her parents lived there with her grandmother. Eventually, her parents also moved to the UK. They raised two children in Golders Green. Annie gave up her professional career as a pianist and became a piano teacher. Her focus was the family and she says that this was her decision which she does not regret. Annie and her husband have been going to Hungary regularly but she feels that London is her home. She feels very grateful to Britain for having given them many opportunities and for allowing them to be themselves. Annie and her husband have many Hungarian Jewish friends in the UK and abroad. She never talked much about her war experiences and thinks one should focus on the future. Both her children speak Hungarian and they used to go back and visit her husband’s mother who stayed in Budapest.
Gyöngyös. Budapest. Jewish House. Hiding with Christian family. Refugee in Paris. London.
Well, I remember my- my grandmother made very beautiful yellow stars. And she was the one who- who put all the yellow stars on our- on our coats and everything. But that was after ‘44 March, when- when, you know, we had the occupation. It was after that.
And my parents, my father, and my- my mother too, I mean, and my grandmother, of course, they wanted to- to protect me, from all. You know - I was the only child. Like most Jewish families that time, they didn't want to have more or I don't know why. But anyway, so they said that, you know, they tried to, not to- not to terrorise. To give me sort of reasons to be terrorised, or- or frightened.
Well, I cannot deny that I was born Hungarian. So, you know, this is part of- part of me. And I don’t want to deny I was born Jewish. And I’m very sad to think of all these people whom I lost. And I'm very happy to be, live here, because I found that here I – here, I can be- I can be myself.
It was in the night - bang, bang, bang, bang on the wall of the cellar. Suddenly a hole appeared. A Russian soldier came in, with bread. He was filthy. Nobody spoke Russian but I remember what he said [she mimics ‘speaking’ silently]. We understood why, because the German soldiers were marching on the street. So first 1 soldier, then 2 & then we saw guns. Then we learned the word, 'chasy, chasy' which meant 'watches'. Because the soldiers came & took the watches from people who had wristwatches because that was their most important thing in life: to own watches. Soldiers, you could see them: 4,5,6,7,8 watches on their arms. That was a thing. What I don't remember - I was too young to remember - that lots of soldiers raped young women there. But that I don't remember. I was just- Later on, I was just told that it happened.