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Lili Pollock

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
1 April 1939

Interview Summary:

Lili Pollock (nee Schwarz) was born in Vienna on 8 April 1917 to Czech parents. She was the second of 3 children. Her parents were orthodox. Her mother had been a dressmaker and her father was a signpost writer. He served in the army during World War I. The family lived in a two bedroom apartment and attended the Pazmaniten Gasse Synagogue. Lili went to the state school in that street. She had a very happy childhood in Vienna and was friendly with Jews and non Jews. She belonged to a mixed youth group and to Makkabi. After school she worked as a lingerie model.


She never encountered antisemitism prior to the Anschluss in 1938. Then her married sister was dragged onto the street to scrub the pavement. Lili was taken to the Gestapo to scrub the basement. Her sister emigrated to England to be a domestic. She experienced the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) and the burning of the synagogues. Lili’s father was arrested. Their flat was confiscated and given to a Christian family. Lili was able to obtain a visa for her family for Shanghai and so her father was released. But her parents did not want to go there, so they were smuggled into Belgium and lived in Antwerp. Lili stayed in Vienna sending them a monthly case and money and helped to get Shanghai visas for other incarcerated families. She was denounced but escaped on a visitor's permit to England visiting her parents in Antwerp on the way. 

She arrived in England in April 1939 and stayed overnight with her sister. Bloomsbury House arranged for Lili to be a domestic with a Jewish family in Stamford Hill. Lili had to look after two children. She was treated reasonably well. She could find no-one to act as guarantors for her parents and brother even though both her sisters were earning money. On the outbreak of war she was evacuated with other children to a family in Devon for two months. She stayed with this family for over a year, then she and her sister became domestics for a vicar in Bedford. From there she came to Harrogate with help of Minister Kahan. She worked in a Jewish boarding house, then at Betty’s Café. She and her sister married after the war and bought a boarding house. After a year they bought the Manor Hotel, the ninth Jewish Boarding House in Harrogate. They successfully ran it until the 1970s. 

Well, I’ve lived much longer in England than I lived on the continent but I still feel foreign, foreign to a certain extent, language most probably, I don’t know. I feel a little bit odd among our friends. They are very nice but I feel the odd one out.


@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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LP: Red Cross letter from mother and brother