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Fanni Bogdanow

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
27 June 1939
Interview number:

Interview Summary:

Fanni Bogdanow was born in Düsseldorf, the only child of a Russian father and a German mother. The family moved to Erkelenz when Fanni was five and to Affaltrach near Heilbronn when she was ten. She attended non-Jewish schools and suffered from antisemitism. She had no friends. There were few Jews in these small towns. Her father was arrested and taken to Dachau just before Kristallnacht and the family flat on the ground floor of the synagogue in Affaltrach was smashed to pieces. Her father was released from Dachau and Fanni was sent on a Kindertransport to England on 27 June 1939. She was taken in by a Quaker family, who had already made contact whilst she was in Germany. She was very happy with the Clement family in Haughton Green, Denton. They made no attempt to convert her and sent her to a Jewish family for the Jewish holidays. Mr Clement was a school teacher. The family are still in touch with her. 

Fanni attended Stretfield High School. She left at sixteen and worked for two years in Stalybridge Library. She applied to do an external degree in French at London University in December 1944. On advice from Mrs Pogmore of the Jewish Refugee Committee, she applied for a scholarship from Manchester University, sitting the exam on VE day. She won three scholarships and stayed in a university Hall of Residence. After her first degree she won a scholarship to Westfield College, London, then a government scholarship for one year to Paris, then a Research Fellowship for three years in Manchester and then a Leverhulme Research Fellowship in Liverpool. After her doctorate she took a job in the French Department of Manchester University, where she worked her way up to Professor. Her speciality is medieval French literature and she has written a number of books on the grail. 

Her parents survived the war in camps (mother in Bergen Belsen) and she visited them in a DP Camp in Bavaria in 1947. When her father died in 1959, her mother came to live with her in Heald Green. 


Full Interview


According to history books, only synagogues were burned down that night on the 9th or the 10th 1938. But history books I’m afraid, have got it slightly wrong, because that night of terror was far, far worse than anything that they describe in the history books. It wasn’t only synagogues that were burned down. They broke into all the Jewish homes, because they knew exactly where all the Jewish people lived. With their pickaxes … broke open the front doors, they hacked out the windows, the window frames. They slit open the feather beds, because in Germany you had feather beds at that time. Not a piece of furniture was left standing. Not a cup or a saucer was left whole. It was a night of terror which to this day I have not forgotten.

And, as you know of the 9th November 1938, well the day after 9th November 1938, all Jewish children were expelled from the German state schools. And I still remember, I was walking through the village and the school inspector said, ‘Why aren’t you at school?’ and I said, ‘I’m Jewish, and I’ve been expelled.’ And he did not reply a single word! I still remember that.

I’ve never understood why the world kept its doors closed to the Jewish people. I’m sure the Holocaust could have been avoided if the world had opened its doors and allowed the Jewish people to leave Germany. Something I can never understand, why the world was so hard to the Jewish people. Have you ever wondered that? Yes?

We’d been expelled from school like all the Jewish children, on the 9th November 1938: After the Jewish teachers were released from the concentration camps, my cousin and myself, we went to the Jewish school in Heilbronn. But after a few weeks, suddenly, the schoolroom was three quarters empty because three quarters of the children, with their parents, had been deported to the Polish frontier. That was early 1939. That is perhaps my most vivid memory: seeing the schoolroom two-thirds empty. All we heard that they’d all been deported with their families to the Polish border. We don’t know what happened to them. They probably were all exterminated.

I still remember saying goodbye to my mother. Her last words were, ‘Farewell my dear child.’ We went on the train through the Hook of Holland. And when the train, with the children, arrived - had crossed – the Dutch border the train stopped at the first station in Holland. And wonderful Dutch ladies, who knew there were these children on the train, came onto the train, with refreshments for the children. It was suddenly like going from hell to heaven, to be crossing the border into Holland and to be suddenly welcomed with joy by complete strangers! The difference between that and Germany is inexplicable! They were wonderful Dutch ladies, because they knew the train was coming with the children. It was just unbelievable to be suddenly… to be surrounded by love and affection by complete strangers, after being persecuted in Germany.

It was the most wonderful, wonderful thing that the British government did. They saved the lives of 10,000 Jewish children by opening their doors to them. No other country in the whole wide world made such an offer, neither America nor Canada nor Australia only Great Britain. Great Britain was the only country in the whole wide world. The world must never forget this wonderful, wonderful action on the part of the British government. In Germany, they murdered Jewish children; in Great Britain families opened their homes to them to save their lives. Great Britain is the best country in the whole wide world! We must always, always remember that!

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