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Gabriele Jacobi

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
September 1937
Interview number:


Dr Anthony Grenville

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Gabriele Jacobi (nee Dienemann) was born in 1919 in Ratibor/Silesia to Rabbi Dienemann, who then moved to Offenbach, where his daughter grew up in a household well integrated into both the local German and Jewish communities. She met several well-known liberal rabbis. Her father was arrested in 1933, and again in 1938, she finished her education in Germany in 1937 and was admitted to Britain on a student entry permit. She studied at college in West Hampstead for a teacher’s diploma in Home Economics, in which field she made a considerable career after the war at a college in Luton. She married an Anglophile German-Jewish journalist who had settled in Britain before 1933. 


Full Interview


My father was liberal, and he was not only liberal, he was one of the leading liberal lights. He founded the international liberal association of Judaism. He did a lot of outside work, giving lectures, writing. He was co-editor, then, of the Jewish monthly or bi-monthly Der Morgen. He was a very active man, well supported by his wife, who in her own right was probably more intelligent than he was. He, I think, relied on her greatly, but she was always in the background.

I went three times back to Offenbach. The mayor wanted to honour my father a little bit more than they had already done. To honour him, they named a street after him. And the mayor and all the dignitaries, we walked along the newly named Max-Dienemann-Weg, of which I have the picture.

My husband was an exceptional person in many ways. He was absolutely bilingual. No accent. Spoke English probably better than most English people. Spoke German. He gave a radio commentary… simultaneous translation during the Prague crisis, when Hitler gave one or two speeches. It was transmitted as simultaneous translation by the BBC. Then the BBC said to him, “When war breaks out, which no doubt it will, please come and work for us.” And more or less the first week when war broke out he joined the BBC

My mother took me to Woburn House and said: "my daughter is very clever with her hands." What was offered was a position in a big laundry. I can still see my mother: "What, my daughter a washerwoman? Out of the question."

We got a connection to a domestic science training college for teachers. It was called National Societies; it was in a Protestant church. It was very nice & I was very happy. Everything was new to me. You put in your hand in the letterbox to fetch the key to get into the house. We only had one bath a week. And the English system: in your bed the upper sheet became the lower sheet and you had a clean sheet once a week.

[It was] wonderful, wonderful. The Lyons Corner House made a great impression on me. No, I was free, you know, the feeling of freedom. I stayed with family friends. It was a sort of a different – I could feel it was a different atmosphere.

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