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Henriette Wiesenfeld

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
24 May 1940
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Henrietta Wiesenfeld (Yetti) was born in Antwerp to Polish parents, who had moved there in the 1920s. Her father was a Chokover Chossid. Yetti was the fourth and last child. She showed signs of a blood disorder and was sent to live in Braschaat in the country. She lived there from the age of 2 and returned to Antwerp in c1937. The family lived on Bleekhof Straat. As the Germans marched into Belgium the family fled, walking for 2 weeks until they reached Boulogne. They started carrying their possessions but left most on the way. At Boulogne crowds were trying to board ships. Her father and brother tried to board one ship and her father fell into the water and drowned. Her mother and the other 3 children boarded another boat as they were being bombed. They arrived in London and her brother in Liverpool. 

They took a room and Henrietta went to Church Street School. The school was evacuated to Wolverton, where Yetti had to live with a non-Jewish family. After a while her sister took her out and brought her to Bletchley where she stayed with a non-Jewish family but ate with Jewish families who had evacuated there. She attended the regular school. After 1 year she was moved to Dorking, where a number of Jewish families had taken a mansion, called Leslie House and lived there with unaccompanied children. Rabbi Posen lived there with his family. She attended regular school but lived a full Jewish life in that house. In c 1944 she returned to London to her family because it seemed safe there but when the doodlebugs started they moved to Denham, where she attended Dalston County School, and then Pitmans College. Her older sister became a diamond cleaver, her other sister worked for a diamond company and her brother fought in the British Army and then started making frames for glasses. 

After the war, Yetti worked as a secretary for the Agudah. She belonged to the Adass. Later they attended Poets Road Shule with Chazan Kusevitsky. They moved to Highbury New Park. Then she went to work in a Hatton Garden Office for Mr Rabstein. In 1951 they moved to Woodbury Grove in Woodbury Down Estate and attended Frumkin Shule near Manor House. 

Yetti married Isak Wiesenfeld at Grove Lane Shule in December 1952. They went to live with her mother and they had one room for themselves and their first 2 children. Yetti continued working and her husband worked at the Shechita Board, acted as part-time Chazan and as headmaster of a Cheder. 

[On walking from Antwerp to Boulogne] Just a huge crowd who walked. We stopped at villages. We stopped anywhere, overnight, everywhere, one day was a hall, one day must have been a farm, once there was a barn … once we got bags with straw and we made up palliasses to sleep on, it was an old hall. It took us two weeks to come to England. Practically we walked all the way except the crossing - all but in the water.

I never thought of myself as a refugee. I have never had any problems with it; no, I don’t feel an outsider.

Just to be alive- I am glad I am here, I am lucky: I have got children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and I hope to continue well.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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