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Liselotte Leschke

LL: August 2003
LL: August 2003

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LL: Anneliese Singer, grandmother, Hamburg, 1921
LL: Anneliese Singer, grandmother, Hamburg, 1921

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LL: Hamburg house, 1910
LL: Hamburg house, 1910

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LL: August 2003
LL: August 2003

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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
3 March 1933
Interview number:
Experiences:
29

Interview Summary:

Liselotte Leschke, born in Berlin in August 1914, was half-Jewish by birth, but  brought up by her Jewish mother (and later Jewish stepfather) after her parents divorced. The family home was on the Alster in Hamburg. She was educated at Klosterschule and the Humanistisches Gynmasium, with little if any awareness of her Jewish identity before 1933. She mixed freely with Christian schoolmates and had no Jewish religious observance whatsoever. Her father was a professor of medicine in Berlin; her  mother a lecturer in economics at the Institute of Sociology, Hamburg. She was also related to Albert Einstein. She had a highly musical and artistic background. She left Germany for Britain after her Abitur, to learn English in Cardiff. She was employed as a student teacher at Badminton School, Bristol, one of the best-know girls’ schools in England. She took a BA in German with French at Bristol University in 1938. She returned regularly to Germany, on one occasion finding herself within touching distance of Hitler when he visited Hamburg, but built her life in England. She was able, through university contacts, to bring her mother and stepfather to Britain after the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht). She commenced her teaching career despite the outbreak of war. She was invited to return to Badminton, where she taught for many years. She was school librarian and played a part in a wide range of school activities. She also ran the Bristol Music Club for seven years and sat on many committees of Bristol University, especially active in its Alumni Association, awarded honorary MA in 1996 for services to the University.

I heard school children shouting from the quay ‘Wir wollen unseren Führer sehen’, ‘Hitler is coming’. So up we went. Hanging over the railing, there was the gangway, with SS both sides. I could not have missed him if I’d had a brick in my pocket, never mind about a revolver. I couldn’t do anything about it. He was there to congratulate the crew who'd rescued a Norwegian ship in the Atlantic. I have dined out on that story. I call it a chance in a lifetime. And there was the mother of a former pupil of mine. When I told them the story, not very long ago, she said: ‘Would you have done it?’ How do I know? I felt it so strongly, I could hit him. But I couldn’t. If I had, I would have been shot on the spot. But a few million would have survived. I would have killed him if I could. I felt at the time I wish I could. & that was quite early. When some Germans they say they didn’t know there were concentration camps. Well of course we knew.

Mother once came home from school from a scripture lesson: ‘Such an interesting lesson, it was all about Israel, the Israelites or the Jews, are there still any living?’ She didn’t know she was Jewish.

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