Fanni Bogdanow was born in Düsseldorf, the only child of a Russian father and a German mother. The family moved to Erkelenz when Fanni was five and to Affaltrach near Heilbronn when she was ten. She attended non-Jewish schools and suffered from antisemitism. She had no friends. There were few Jews in these small towns. Her father was arrested and taken to Dachau just before Kristallnacht and the family flat on the ground floor of the synagogue in Affaltrach was smashed to pieces. Her father was released from Dachau and Fanni was sent on a Kindertransport to England on 27 June 1939. She was taken in by a Quaker family, who had already made contact whilst she was in Germany. She was very happy with the Clement family in Haughton Green, Denton. They made no attempt to convert her and sent her to a Jewish family for the Jewish holidays. Mr Clement was a school teacher. The family are still in touch with her.
Fanni attended Stretfield High School. She left at sixteen and worked for two years in Stalybridge Library. She applied to do an external degree in French at London University in December 1944. On advice from Mrs Pogmore of the Jewish Refugee Committee, she applied for a scholarship from Manchester University, sitting the exam on VE day. She won three scholarships and stayed in a university Hall of Residence. After her first degree she won a scholarship to Westfield College, London, then a government scholarship for one year to Paris, then a Research Fellowship for three years in Manchester and then a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in Liverpool. After her doctorate she took a job in the French Department of Manchester University, where she worked her way up to Professor. Her speciality is medieval French literature and she has written a number of books on the grail.
Her parents survived the war in camps (mother in Bergen Belsen) and she visited them in a DP Camp in Bavaria in 1947. When her father died in 1959, her mother came to live with her in Heald Green.