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Frank Henderson

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
4 March 1939
Interview number:

Interview Summary:

Frank Henderson was born in Gotha, Germany in 1916 as Friedrich Hirschfeld. He was the third of four boys. His father was from Berlin and his mother from Niedern Tudorf, Westphalia. His father served in the First World War and won the Iron Cross. His parents married in 1911 and his father worked as a master tailor. The family moved to Halle in 1919, where Frank grew up. It was a small Jewish community of  about 400. The Rabbi was Dr Albert Karlberg. Frank’s father was a member of the shul and of the Jewish war veterans association. He worked from home. Frank attended the non-Jewish school and had non-Jewish friends. With the coming of the Nazis, his friends began to spurn him. People were frightened to be seen talking to Jews. After school Frank became a window dresser and then went to work as a secretary in a lawyer’s office. The Nazis eventually gave him the sack c1935. Frank went to Berlin to undertake a training course to be a fitter so that he could find work abroad. This lasted 2 years 9 months. He was in Berlin during Krystallnacht. The organiser of the course, Leopold Huh, organised for c20 boys to go to England to help make ready Kitchener Camp for the reception of refugees. He arrived in England in March 1939. He had to get a hospital section ready within 24 hours and then worked with the doctor. He stayed there 3 months and then came to Manchester, where he had a friend. 

He stayed in Kershaw House, Alexandra Park, and through the refugee committee he found odd jobs for a while. He moved into lodgings for a short while and then into a hostel in Upper Park Road, supervised by Mrs Weinberg. He found a job with Levinsons, the wine people, filling bottles of wine for Pesach. After Pesach 1940 he got the sack. He went to work for a cotton mill in Oldham repairing the machines but was interned in June 1940 in Whitchurch. They lived in tents and occupied themselves with lectures, concerts etc. It was like a holiday and it never rained. In October they were taken to Huyton but he was only there a few weeks. In October he was commandeered into the Pioneer Corps building Nissan Huts in Shropshire and in Stafford. He married Dorothea Roth from Vienna on 27 November 1940 whilst on leave for 3 days. 

After 4 years in the Pioneer Corps he was appointed a translator for the Royal Signals and on 3 July 1944 he was sent to Europe. He later acted as an interpreter at a court in Lübeck. He returned to England in 1946 and posted to a POW camp in Manchester opposite the biscuit factory in Crumpsall until May 1946. On discharge he went back to work in Oldham. He earned £5 a week and then £6.50 but when this proved insufficient he started selling toys for a friend. He made £10,000 in 6 months and was allowed to keep 7.5%. He later started on his own and sold suitcases and toys.

I had a very good job and my lawyer was very happy with me, I worked hard, day and night. Until one day, in my seat there was a letter, he wouldn’t come and say it personally: “Sorry you are dismissed, by order of the Nazi Party”. So, he didn’t come out and shake hands with me or nothing, he was frightened of the secretary who was a born Nazi. You see, it is most impossible to understand what happened, unless you were amongst it.

I applied for (UK) naturalisation and I had to appear in front of three judges, and one of them said “Mr Henderson, you have been interned.” “Yes.” “Tell me why were you interned?” I said, “In all fairness sir, would you please tell me why I was interned?” He said “Thank you very much Mr Henderson. Granted.”


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