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Renate Treitel

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
August 1936
Experiences:

Interview Summary:

Renate Treitel was born in 1931 in Berlin to parents Leonhard Julius Eichelgrün (later changed to Elgin) and Lotte née Rosenthal. She doesn’t remember much from her childhood in Berlin. Her parents went to synagogue (in Fasanenstraße) on High Holidays and she collected them there with their maid who lived with them. She remembers there being entertainment for children on some occasions and she remembers visiting grandparents in Kassel. Her mother didn’t work after her marriage and her father was a civil engineer. 


In 1936 when her father lost his job, they decided to leave Germany via Holland. Her father found work in London and her parents settled in a circle of many Jewish refugee friends. They joined Alyth Gardens Synagogue and occasionally Kinloss Synagogue. Renate finally started school at Henrietta Barnet school. During the Blitz she was evacuated. After school she became a chartered accountant which she quite enjoyed. She later met her husband, Kurt Treitel, a fellow Jewish refugee from Berlin, who was in the wool trade. With the compensation money from the German state they bought their first house and started a family and Renate stayed at home to raise their four children. With her husband she joined Munk’s Synagogue and her children attended Jewish schools. 


Her husband Kurt took Renate back to Berlin to show her the city, which he remembers much better than her as he was nine years older. They didn’t speak German to each other or their children and she feels no nostalgia for Germany. Her son, Jonathan, who joined her for the interview, says that he thinks religion was the identifying link for his parents and the framework for their life. He feels that he grew up in a German-Jewish bubble, even in the Menorah Primary School most pupils were children of refugees. Only later did he meet English Jews. He is interested in his heritage and taught American students in Berlin (course about Refugees and Germany). He would like to see people interested in the fascinating lives of refuges like his parents.

And when we got to Holland my father didn’t stay long. He went to London and got us a room in a boarding house. Rooms for us. And started his new job. And we stayed and had a holiday in- And on by birthday went in a toy shop. I wanted a kite. They were up in the ceiling. But I was told I’d be better off with a doll. So I got a celluloid doll. And in England when I washed my hair I also washed my doll and then we both dried in front of the gas fire and the doll went on- in flames. So it lasted about a year, that doll.

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@ AJR Refugee Voices 2020

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