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Frank Land

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
April 1939
Interview number:


Dr Jana Buresova

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Like his identical twin brother Ralph* born in Berlin on 24 October 1928, Frank remembered being forbidden to sit on park benches near their middle class home, and Kristallnacht. Largely protected from developments by their assimilated parents Louis and Sofia (née Weinberger), Hitlerjugend members nevertheless jeered at the twins en route to the Theodor Herzl Schule.  Countering this, the twins ‘acted as a unit’ supporting and protecting each other.


Berlin-born Louis (1888-1976), however, found his air compressors business ‘hard-hit by the Depression’. His Zionist wife Sofia (1900-1998), was from a Polish-speaking Jewish community in Zwiniaz, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but had moved with her parents to Vienna, where she studied art at the university. Later a housewife and photographer, she sang lullabies in Polish, Frank recalled, also that Uncle Kurt, despite winning the Iron Cross as a WWI Observer Corps officer, spent some time in Dachau concentration camp c.1937.  Louis finally decided to emigrate.


April 1939 was ‘exciting’, selling family possessions, though Frank’s ‘excitement was mixed with foreboding’ about leaving Germany. Knickerbockers and brown shoes were ordered for the boys, only to have the ‘funny clothing jeered at’ in Britain. The family arrived in Harwich via Holland and were met by Sofia’s relatives in London, then taken to Kilburn, where the boys attended Essendene elementary school. Learning English at school, they were ‘not aware of difference’ until they returned home and spoke German, or Sofia asked for a ‘flasche (bottle) of juice’.


WWII saw Frank and Ralph evacuated with the school to Bedmont. Feeling both ‘excitement and trepidation’, being together was ‘an enormous help’ ‘We were a self-contained unit’. Memories of their arrival in Bedmont differ slightly, but the twins (joined by their cousin Peter who had come to Britain with his sister Miriam on the Kindertransport) ‘loved the way of life’ with Mr/Mrs Gentle, despite confrontations with village boys. Whilst Louis was interned under Regulation 18B in Ramsay, Isle of Man, working as a cook, artistic Sofia worked at home making felt handbags she sold to ‘quality shops’ in London, and subsequently made dolls’ clothes for Woolworths, adjusting to émigré life more easily than frustrated Louis, Frank observed.  


Aged 14, the twins returned to London. Attending Willesden County Grammar School was ‘challenging’, but they ‘helped each other to learn’, studied economics at the London School of Economics [LSE], graduating in 1950 with almost identical marks, then joined the economics research division. 1952/1953 Frank joined the statistical office of J. Lyons & Co., and the Systems Programming Team  of LEO [Lyons Electronic Office],  ultimately becoming the chief consultant. Lyons sold LEO Computers Ltd. to English Electric in 1961; Frank left in 1967 to teach Systems Analysis at the LSE. After 16 years in industry he ‘successfully built up the department’, resigned in 1985/6, and became Professor of Information Management at the London Business School before returning to the LSE, ending his ‘satisfying’ academic career as Emeritus Professor Land.


Computers constitute a key element in Frank’s life both professionally and personally. He met his British-born wife Ailsa (née Dicken) at the LSE in 1950, where she duly became Professor of Operational Research. Although not Jewish, she was welcomed into the family. Frank remains actively involved via the LEO Computers Society, and Chairs the LEO Historical Society, which aims to ‘put LEO on the map’ with ‘Cadby Hall as the home of British computers’, and to develop an oral history project.  Ralph, too, is still involved, having followed Frank to J. Lyons Ltd. While the twins competed professionally as individuals, ‘it was never aggressively’, and the intimacy between them remains strong.


Frank’s three children were brought up ‘with a Jewish consciousness’ but he does not support sectarianism. He has no wish to live in Israel or Germany, though two grand-children have opted to take German citizenship due to ‘Brexit’. His special messages are two-fold: a) personal regret that his parents never voluntarily spoke about their lives in Berlin, and that he never asked about their backgrounds; b) although ‘loyal to the UK and appreciative of opportunities – I’ve been very lucky’, Frank cited Lord Alf Dubs’ thwarted efforts in Parliament and called for better treatment of refugees by the British government.


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