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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Alice was born 1919 in Merzig im Saarland. She describes a happy childhood with her sister and parents. Her father was a horse trader and the family was well integrated. In 1935 the Saarland became part of Germany and subsequently the Jewish community shrunk. Alice left school with 15 and went to the Handelschule. Her plan for the future was to have a textile shop in Merzig. She became a nanny for a Jewish family in Bavaria.
During Kristallnacht her father was arrested and later sent to Dachau. He returned after six weeks and looked changed. The family decided to leave for Luxemburg in late March 1939. Hannah and her sister had obtained domestic visas for the UK. Alice describes how she and her sister were strip searched when leaving Germany. After spending a few days in Luxemburg, she and her sister set off to the UK via Belgium.
They arrived in London and were picked up by the English couple, the Clarks, who they were going to work for in Gerards Cross. Alice became the parlour maid and her sister the cook. Mrs Clark has had Austrian domestic helpers for some time and was keen to speak German. When she found out that the sister had organised themselves some English lessons she forbade them to carry on. Alice describes the unpleasant work she had to carry out. When war broke out, Alice and her sister had to go to a tribunal and they were categorised category B (she believes that Mrs Clark might have had something to do with this). Soon after the sisters were given notice and came to London, where the contacted Bloomsbury House. They stayed in various lodgings. Alice was staying with a family in Golders Green when a policeman came to arrest her. She was worried about finding her sister. During dinner at Holloway prison, she whistled a tune and her sister whistled back and they were reunited. They were both sent first to Liverpool and then to the Isle of Man, to the women’s camp in Port Erin.
Alice stayed with her sister and two other women in a boarding house in Port Erin. She recalls that they had to do chores and that the landlady was only interested in financial benefits. She also recalls that she and her sister always exchanged the desert pudding, as they did not like it. One women on the boarding house, suspected of being a Nazi sympathiser, was taken away from her room. She also recalls that the men who were interned in other camps were brought in to visit their spouses. When they were released in 1941, the sisters were not allowed to go to London and they went to Manchester, where they worked for a Jewish family. After some time they came back to London, where Alice started to work in an ammunition factory. While visiting friends who were in the Land Army near Oxford, she met her future husband, who was a refugee from Konigsberg, and they got married in 1943, while he was in the British Army. Once the war was finished, Alice found out that her parents were most likely killed in Auschwitz and she remembers crying for a whole day.
Alice’s son Ronnie was born in 1947 and the family moved to Southend. She raised her son and worked as a cleaner and dinner lady in a school. She did not talk about her past much, until a grandchild asked her to come to talk to the school. In recent years she has given a number of talks but she emphasises that her life was not special. Alice was relieved when the interview was finished.
Merzig, Saarland, Domestic Permit Visa to the UK, Internment, Isle of Man, Port Erin-Women’s camp. Manchester. London. Southend.
[Internment] Probably Holloway, you know, or Pentonville. One- one of those ladies’ prisons. They dumped us there. And then I- well, we went in to the dining hall. And you were- well, it was a long, long room, and long benches, and long tables. And I was sitting there. And I thought, well, I’m going to try and find my sister. So we had a whistle. So I whistled. And a whistle came back! It was absolutely the other end. And then I- we stood up. You know, whistled. And so once we knew we are there, we would meet. And we did.…Only that one night, because we went from there to Liverpool, and- then from Liverpool we went all to Douglas, Isle of Man. And from there we- they split us up again. That’s why we ended up in Port Erin.