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Elise Duhl

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
March 1939
Mode of Arrival:
Child coming with mother on her domestic permit

Interview Summary:

Elise Duhl (née Baroti) was an only child, born to Viennese parents in 1930. Her paternal grandfather father was a clothing manufacturer, and her mother had two sisters. One of the sisters was married to a brother of Elise’s father. The other one had emigrated to Australia.

 

Elise’s paternal grandfather dealt in Chamois Leathers. He perished in Theresienstadt along with two other siblings, a sister and a brother who was handicapped. Elise’s father served in the First World War in Siberia. He joined his father in business and on marriage in 1927 opened a shirt manufacturing business in the 1st district.

 

Elise went to State School. She remembered the Germans marching in. After Kristallnacht, her father was taken from the Shul to Dachau concentration camp, where he was interned until January 1939. He was eventually released because of his army service. The family wanted to emigrate and used a telephone directory to find sponsors. Her father was sponsored by a furniture factory in Buckinghamshire and her mother by a family needing domestic help in a country home in Hungerford, Wiltshire. They all travelled together in March 1939, via her father’s brother in Belgium and from Calais to Dover.

 

In Wiltshire, Elise attended school. She and her mother joined her father in Buckinghamshire after a few months. The factory gave them a mobile home on the premises, so that they could be together. Elise attended school until the outbreak of war when the family had to leave, and moved to a women’s hostel in Belsize Park with her mother. Children were normally not allowed to live there, but her mother refused to be parted from her and Elise slept on a deckchair.

 

After a short while Elise was evacuated to a family in Surbiton, Surrey, and later they all moved to Cornwall due to the bombings. She attended school there for a couple of months. In 1940 her father was interned on the Isle of Man and Elise and her mother were sent there to join him. She remembers travelling on her own from Exeter Station with a label around her neck. Her father was due to be sent to Australia but because he was awaiting his family, he did not go.

 

The family stayed in the Bella Queeny Hotel in St Mary’s on the Isle of Man. They resided in the kosher half of the Hotel, and Elise attended school there. They were interned for two years and in 1942 moved to Manchester, where her father had found a job with Sieff’s Bakery. They lodged with Mrs Black in George St and ate at Fulda’s Hotel. Elise attended Heath St School.

 

After a short time her father went to work for Heilpern, in the clothing trade. Her mother made army clothing at the Greengate and Irwell Factory. The family eventually rented a house on Hampshire St, and started their own blouse making business. After school Elise became apprenticed to learn millinery at J Jones in Oldham St. She would go to the cinema and after the war she attended the Springfield Club in Laski House. She eventually joined her parents in the family’s business. 

I feel British. I am always grateful for them accepting us here, I am. If I saw the Queen, I would thank her. I don’t feel out of place at all, perhaps because I was a child, I don’t know.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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