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Daisy Hoffner

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
6 January 1939
Interview number:


Dr Bea Lewkowicz

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Daisy Hoffner was born in January 1924 in Berlin, where she grew up as the only child of Kurt Holzapfel, a doctor, and Erna Lehmann. Daisy was baptised when she was six. She attended the Viktoria Luisen Lyzeum. Her parents had been baptised, but didn’t attend church. Daisy never had any sense that the family had Jewish roots. Only when she wanted to join the Hitler Youth did she find out that she had Jewish grand-parents. The only youth movement which she could join was the Quaker Youth Movement. By chance she found out that the Quakers organized a list of children to be send on a Kindertransport to Britain and she left Berlin on the 5th of January 1939.


After staying in the Dovercourt Reception camp, she was sent to a doctor's family in Milton Abbas, where she was expected to help with the child the family was expecting. When the family found out that her father was a doctor they allowed her to go to school. While in Dorset, Daisy managed to get the Quaker family who she was supposed to go to, to sponsor her parents who came to the UK in July 1939. The parents first settled in the village and then moved to London. Once Daisy turned 16, she was classified as an ‘enemy alien’ and had to leave Dorset. While her father was interned in several internment camps for many years, she shared various boarding houses with her mother. She describes in great details the atmosphere around the Finchley Road (and the bombings). Her father was finally allowed to work as a doctor and set up his practice in Islington. Daisy wanted to train as a doctor but did not get a place at a medical school in London but did not want to leave London either and therefore trained as a dentist. One of her patients was Rudi Dutschke, the famous leader of German students revolts in the 1960s.


She met her husband Charles, a refugee from Leipzig, and they settled in Belsize Park. They adopted two children. She went back with her family to Berlin in 1966, which was a bizarre experience as Berlin was already divided. She didn’t feel like she belonged there. She doesn’t feel English either, although she attended school, studied and raised a family here. She feels Central European and her home is Hampstead or more precisely Belsize Park. Only later in life has she realised her deep trauma caused by uprooting early in her life. Daisy still attends Quaker meetings. Among the circle of friends was the writer Erich Fried.   


Key words:  

Berlin. Kindertransport. Quakers. Dovercourt. Dorset. Milton Abbas. Dentist. Finchley Road. Boarding Houses. The Dorice Cafe.  Erich Fried. Rudi Dutschke


Full Interview


All I wanted to be was an English schoolgirl. I had no regrets, I didn’t feel homesick, and I didn’t want to speak German. All I wanted to be was an English schoolgirl, in my school uniform, riding my bicycle.

And my cousin Inge said, “Do you know, I’ve found out something.” And I said, “What have you found?” And she said, “You know, we’re really Jewish. Oma, the only one who is left alive is still a member of the Jüdische Gemeinde, of the Jewish Community. So shock-horror for me. I belonged to this, by now, infamous lot of people, the Jews. So I was rather lost, because I couldn’t really go back to a Jewish Youth Group movement, whatever. And I couldn’t go to the Aryan ones either, because I was jolly well “nicht-arisch”.

I remember when Hitler came to power because for some reason I was out in the street with my father, and there was a gate, or door being being banged, and my father said, “Ha-hah. That’s the ridiculous Hitler coming to power.” He didn’t take it seriously. He thought the whole giggle couldn’t last more than six months. Yes, I remember that.

So my parents and Aulchen [the nanny] had taken us, and then we boarded the train. And you know this was, as I said Bahnhof Friedrichstraße, but everybody, all the parents or anybody who had accompanied children, rushed off to take the S-Bahn zum Bahnhof Zoo, because the train would come through Bahnhof Zoo - you know from Friedrichstraße to Bahnhof Zoo - to wave once more. Dreadful, huh? Dreadful!

And then I remember when we crossed the border into Holland. And I looked out of the window and the Swastika flag - the Nazi flag - receded. And I thought, “Oh, my God. Now I am a Flüchtlingskind.” Look at that. I’ve left Germany. And then we came to the first station. And the Dutch, the train stopped, and the Dutch… there were a lot of Dutch women came and brought big…canisters or something with hot soup or cocoa. You know, I think it may have been cocoa or it may have been soup, but anyway, and said, “Welcome” to us. And I thought, “Marvellous. But oh, how awful to be a Flüchtlingskind.

I thought that it had next to no effect on me and that's not true. I've never fully got over it.

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