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Hans Danziger

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Born:
March 1939
Interview number:
Experiences:
RV
254

Interview Summary:

Hans Danziger was born in November 1930 in Berlin. His father was a travelling salesman for a paper printing firm. He was twenty years older than Hans’s mother who was trained as a governess at the Fröbel Institute.


After the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht), Hans and his younger sister, Marion, were sent to England on a Kindertransport. For their first three months in London they stayed in the Sainsbury hostel, a house in Putney provided by Alan Sainsbury. This was arranged because their mother’s uncle’s adopted daughter was secretary to Lord Rothschild, a friend of Alan Sainsbury. At the hostel, they learned English. Jewish and Quaker agencies did a lot of the organisation for the refugees. Hans remembers weekends meant going to Hebrew classes in the morning in St Albans, followed by Sunday school in the afternoon. The Jewish Refugee Committee arranged his Bar Mitzvah. Towards the end of the war, he moved to live in St Albans with a German Jew, Emil Vasen, who had established a hotel. Hans lived there with William, a fellow-Berliner two years his senior, who became like a brother to him. Marion, his younger sister, was sent to boarding school run by older German women doctors. Hans had to relearn German to talk to Emil, having forgotten all his native language after five years in this country. “My father used to send me letters through the Red Cross which I couldn’t read” he says.


Remarkably Hans and Marion’s parents, Leopold and Charlotte, survived the war. They had good friends who hid them, then got false papers and lived above ground, hiding in plain sight in Berlin. ‘Father, who had given up his business on the first of April 1941, and was now performing forced labour by order of the Gestapo, was lucky in having a good friend in Herr Theodor Goerner. He was the owner of a large book printing works, who was willing to buy father’s now useless business for the proper value and to put that money into an account from which father could take out regular amounts.  He was later to store some household pieces which were packed by father. A true friend, and like many others, not Jewish’.


Hans and his sister weren’t reunited with their parents until several years after the war. It took them until 1948 to get visas. By then, equipped with his School Certificate, Hans was living with William, working in London as an apprentice to a tailor in Regent St. ‘Our parents and I lived together at my lodgings at Mrs. Weitz’s house in Stoke Newington. She was a good soul and made them welcome. Mother who was a most capable ‘hausfrau’ managed to make a homely atmosphere in their one room no bigger than my study. After an extension of a further six months, they met Mrs. Hahn-Warburg who was looking for a married couple to run the family home in near Oxford, and offered the job to our parents, affording them the means to stay in England’. 


Although his immediate family survived, Hans’ wider family did not. He has written an account of his life for his own two children: ‘The almost total destruction of the whole of your continental family should never be forgotten.’


Additional Comments:


Key words: Berlin; Kindertransport; Lord Rothschild; Lord Sainsbury; Hahn-Warburg

Keyword

Full Interview

Transcript

My father went to the synagogue. And I don't know which one it was, whether it was Prinzregentenstraße or Oranienburger Straße. And he picked up some pages from a prayer book. And they're in the shape, almost like, like the tablets of the Ten Commandments! Just pure chance.

[First reunion after the war with his parents] I picked them up in Liverpool Street. They came over by boat, of course. It was a very odd feeling, obviously. These are my parents. You know? There was no rush of emotion; it was a very odd feeling. I- I had to laugh, because in those days, everything was on ration and points. And my mother tipped the porter with a tin of sardines for which he was jolly grateful because they had no money. And they came- they came and my landlady was very pleased, and she put them up in the- in- Stoke Newington. And I remember we had our first lunch. And Mrs. Weitz, who’d never done this before, laid a table in her living room. And she brought out her best cholent or whatever, and made them very welcome. It was very sweet. And I remember my first lunch with them. And- I won't say I was embarrassed, but my father took my mother's hand and kissed it and said, “I wish you a good appetite, my love.” And she said, “Thank you, Leo.” And I got this, you know, the slight embarrassment having been used to the English ways of no emotion, nor nothing, you know.

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