The copyright of all photographs belongs to individual interviewees. Please get in touch for more information
Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
23 December 1938
Renee Mosbacher (née Brainin) was born in Vienna in 1929 to a Polish mother and Russian father. She had two older brothers. Her father was a furrier together with his brothers. Their shop, Gebrueder Brainin, was first located on Glockengasse before moving to the Bauernmarkt in the city. Her father died when Renee was two and her mother died when she was eight. After this, she was taken in by her father’s brother and his wife, who was her mother’s cousin. Her two brothers were taken in by another aunt and uncle. She started attended non-Jewish schools, but after the Anschluss, she attended the Chayes Gymnasium, a Jewish School. Her uncles were in London attending to the London branch of their business during the Anschluss and did not return to Austria. They organized to move the family over to England but this took nine months. The journey to England on 22 December 1938 was fraught with incidents and the family’s reunion with her uncles was very emotional.
In England the family lived in a pension in Paddington and she and her cousins attended a Church of England School. They were then sent to Westcliffe-on-Sea Boarding School until March 1940. They were very unhappy there and did not feel accepted. When her aunt and uncle obtained a house at 41 Kingsley Way, Hampstead Garden Suburb, they returned to London and attended the local school in Finchley Rd. Then at the age of eleven, she attended Clarks College in North Finchley. Renee was happy. She felt fully at home with her aunt and uncle, the school was very friendly and helpful, and although they lived through the London bombing, they were happy to be together as a family. The children did evacuate to Huddersfield for a short time during the flying bombs. The family attended Norris Lea Shul (Hampstead Garden Suburb synagogue) and were traditional. They kept the outward trappings of religion but not its inner depth.
After school Renee stayed at home for a year to learn housewifery and then went to Katinka School of dress designing. She took a job at an 'haute couture' firm in Upper Brook St and met her husband through an introduction.
One has to be true to oneself I think, and always see the best in other people, not always the worst, because sometimes things seem bad, but they turn out to be good. You never know in life. In the meantime we have to hope and believe in the Almighty that whatever he does is for the best in the long run. We are not here to say what is what.
Deep down, although I feel very British, I do – I like the way of life here – but there’s something in me that is, you know, still very Continental.
The family had opened up a business branch already in 1934 in London, and every year they used to go, and as usual they left in February. When the Anschluss occurred, they were actually in London. I remember, the day after the Anschluss, 12th of March, there was a phone call from my uncle, and I remember my auntie shouting through down the phone, “Don’t come back, don’t come back! Get us out of here.”
One has to be true to oneself I think, and always see the best in other people, not the worst, because sometimes things seem bad, but they turn out to be good. As I say, I never knew what my father was like, I only knew my mother for a short time, and yet I was lucky because my aunt and uncle brought me up. I was looked after. For what reason? That maybe my parents shouldn’t go through terrible things.