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Renate Beigel

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
May 1939
Interview number:

Interview Summary:

Renate Beigel was born in Vienna in 1933. She had an older sister called Trudi. Her father was a hat-maker and the family lived in modest circumstances. Renate cannot recall many details about her life in Vienna. She recalls the Anschluss and the images of marching troops. She grew up in a Jewish secular environment and cannot remember having gone to synagogue. Together with her parents and her sister, the family left for Zagreb in 1938. Renate is not sure about the date but based on the photographs, it is likely that it was in October 1938. There, the family lived in poor conditions with little money. Unable to obtain visas, the parents decided to sent the two sisters as unaccompanied minors to the UK (through ‘Austrian Self-Aid’). They travelled by themselves from Trieste to London. Renate was very upset when she found out that she could not stay with her sister and that they would go to different foster families. Renate was sent to a village called Dinton in Wiltshire, where she lived with Mr and Mrs Wheeler. But Renate thinks that the lady who sponsored her was a Miss Carr, who was a local magistrate. She was not very happy there and found herself in an emotionally cold environment which made her very independent. However, she was sent a private school in Salisbury until 1948. In 1948 she was sent to Mrs Lambert and her daughters in Norfolk. Her mother had died in Auschwitz in 1942, deported from France but her father survived. He had been in the Pioneer Corps in North Africa and came to the UK post-war. He got married and Renate had to come to London and live with them in a council flat in Brixton. She did not like the situation and moved out after six months. Her sister married when she was 18 and worked in the Anna Freud nursery. Renate lived in various hostels and started to work. It was very important for her to be financially independent. She worked in various companies and was in charge of public relations at Thorn EMI Lighting, a firm set up by Austrian Jewish refugees. She met her husband when she was in her forties and they decided to move to Gloucestershire, where she still lives today. She does not speak any German. 


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