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Lillian Heyman

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
February 1939
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Lillian Heyman, nee Liselotte Rosl Lachmann, was born 1919 in Berlin. She left school at 16 to train as a window dresser and worked in the big department shop ‘Kaufhaus N. Israel’. Her future husband Ernst Heyman (Ernest Heyman) who had been in the UK since 1936 put an advertisement for a domestic position in the papers (which she reads out at the end of the interview). Lillian came to the UK in February 1939 on a domestic visa. She later found work as a window dresser. She now lives in London and has two children. 

I remember clearly on the day Hitler was elected, I went to a birthday party of a non-Jewish friend from school. We listened to the news and heard, and I was terribly depressed and worried. I knew how my parents would feel. We realised that we’d have to do something, although one didn’t think of emigration at that time. We hoped it wouldn’t last for very long.

My husband decided he wanted to see Berlin again and we went by train through Holland. Where the East Germans came in it felt just like the Nazi period again: dogs outside, everything dim, towers where they overlooked the zone. Then arriving in West Berlin with bright lights- was extraordinary. I went to the first flat where we lived for fifteen years. I stood outside and desperately wanted to go in. A foreigner opened, a young woman, probably Turkish, I told her I used to live there as a child, so many years ago. She let us in. It did something to me; it helped me immensely, contrary to my expectations. It helped me.

We went to the synagogue for the High Holy Days, all dressed up, walking a long way to the Potsdamer Platz or Lindenstraße. Lindenstraße was our synagogue, but for the High Holy Days very often you had an overflow, and we were very fortunate to go to the philharmonic hall in Berlin, where accidentally, I was taken to a concert, a beautiful concert, when I was about twelve. We all went, the whole family went, and the soloist was a young boy, standing in front of the audience, in front of the large orchestra in shorts, and his name was Yehudi Menuhin which was very exciting. I was just about two or three years younger than he. My mother often went, my parents went. My mother loved the opera, and she took one of us along, and we went to my first opera. She took me along to Wagner’s Meistersinger von Nürnberg, which made a big impression on me. Ever since, I’ve been an opera lover.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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