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Lilly Crewe

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
31 July 1939

Interview Summary:

Lilly Neustadtl was an only child, born in Hamburg in 1920 to a Czech father and a Viennese mother. She grew up in Berlin, where her father was the director of a private bank. They lived in a large apartment and she had a completely secular upbringing, only discovering she was Jewish at school. She had no knowledge of anything Jewish until attending the Jewish Lessler School in Berlin in 1933 and the Oneg Shabbat at the Reform Synagogue. The family emigrated to Prague in December 1936 and Lilly to England as a mother’s help on 31 July 1939. Her father died in Prague in Oct 1941 and her mother was transported to Theresienstadt and later to the East. 

Lilly came as a mother’s help to the family of a pharmacist in Southampton. She was made part of their family but was only paid 7/6 (i.e. 7 shillings and 6 pence) instead of 15/- (i.e. 15 shillings) per week. She stayed for 18 months and then moved to her aunt in Lancaster for a week and then to a family of a doctor as a mother’s help. She was paid more but was not treated as one of the family. She stayed for about 6 months and moved to Manchester, where she lived in digs and had a series of jobs. She joined the Czech Club and met her husband, a refugee from Czechoslovakia. They married in the Register Office in March 1942. 

One day, on 30th June 1933, not all that long after the Nazis took power, my mother received a phone call from my head mistress to say will she should come to school and bring her husband. And my mother, knowing I had gym that day, thought, “Oh God, something has happened to her.” But, what had happened to me was the following. This was the last day of school, she called the whole school to the assembly, and, except me, I was in her office, not knowing what was happening, and she took me outside, to the podium, you know, standing there in front of all the assembled school and she said, “This girl is a criminal, she has called our soldiers, or whatever, Nazi Swines, she is herewith expelled.” And do you know my hair still stands on end when I talk about it.


@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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