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Lili Pollock

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


Dr Rosalyn Livshin

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Lili Pollock (nee Schwarz) was born in Vienna on 8 April 1917 to Czech parents. She was the second of 3 children. Her parents were orthodox. Her mother had been a dressmaker and her father was a signpost writer. He served in the army during World War I. The family lived in a two bedroom apartment and attended the Pazmaniten Gasse Synagogue. Lili went to the state school in that street. She had a very happy childhood in Vienna and was friendly with Jews and non Jews. She belonged to a mixed youth group and to Makkabi. After school she worked as a lingerie model.


She never encountered antisemitism prior to the Anschluss in 1938. Then her married sister was dragged onto the street to scrub the pavement. Lili was taken to the Gestapo to scrub the basement. Her sister emigrated to England to be a domestic. She experienced the November Pogrom (Kristallnacht) and the burning of the synagogues. Lili’s father was arrested. Their flat was confiscated and given to a Christian family. Lili was able to obtain a visa for her family for Shanghai and so her father was released. But her parents did not want to go there, so they were smuggled into Belgium and lived in Antwerp. Lili stayed in Vienna sending them a monthly case and money and helped to get Shanghai visas for other incarcerated families. She was denounced but escaped on a visitor's permit to England visiting her parents in Antwerp on the way. 

She arrived in England in April 1939 and stayed overnight with her sister. Bloomsbury House arranged for Lili to be a domestic with a Jewish family in Stamford Hill. Lili had to look after two children. She was treated reasonably well. She could find no-one to act as guarantors for her parents and brother even though both her sisters were earning money. On the outbreak of war she was evacuated with other children to a family in Devon for two months. She stayed with this family for over a year, then she and her sister became domestics for a vicar in Bedford. From there she came to Harrogate with help of Minister Kahan. She worked in a Jewish boarding house, then at Betty’s Café. She and her sister married after the war and bought a boarding house. After a year they bought the Manor Hotel, the ninth Jewish Boarding House in Harrogate. They successfully ran it until the 1970s. 


Full Interview


Well, I’ve lived much longer in England than I lived on the continent but I still feel foreign, foreign to a certain extent, language most probably, I don’t know. I feel a little bit odd among our friends. They are very nice but I feel the odd one out.

King Edward the 8th came to visit Zinner [the shop where LP modelled lingerie] and of course we were all stunned when we saw him. He was very charming. And he bought beautiful nightdresses - they were very, very expensive, and we thought, well, he must have somebody there to buy that for! And we were all staring at him, because they were with handwork and pure silk – they were really absolutely exquisite. And he bought quite a bit there. When I modelled lingerie, I didn’t have to undress, you always had a dressing gown around and you just opened the dressing gown. But it was quite something.

They were in a car, two Nazis. I knew already what that means, and I said,” Alright, I am Jewish”, because there was no point to deny it. And they said,” Get into the car”, and they took me to their Nazi headquarters, the Gestapo headquarters, where they were cleaning the building, they were decorating it or whatever, and they were just throwing water and mud all over the floor. They were all men, Jewish men, and I was the only girl, to clean it up. You couldn’t clean it up because every time we mopped it up they were pouring more mud on the floor, just to annoy us. And that went on and on. And there was one very nice Gestapo chap, a young fellow. When I saw the men, having the trousers all – I mean they were dressed, they were all probably picked up in the street like I was - I started laughing hysterically the whole time, like some people cried, like men were crying and god knows what and I was laughing, I couldn’t help laughing. So this Gestapo man came over to me, a young, very handsome chap, I remember, and he said,” Well, I will help you, if you come to my office I will talk with you”. And I thought,“ Oh god, what will he do”? Well, he wasn’t bad. He only kissed me and cuddled me. That’s all. And he said,“ I will promise you that when I get off duty, which will be about ten or eleven o’clock at night, I will give you a pass that you will be free”. And he did. And after spending this day there, I never saw any of the men again. Not one. They were perhaps 20 men at least there, and I was the only girl, and I got free.

The Gestapo came one day to our flat, before Crystal night. We had a big bookcase, they searched the flat. They couldn’t find anything. Because my mother, in the kitchen, she put the vegetable bag at the window of the kitchen, on the nail, she put a bag with vegetables, and the money and the jewellery was in that bag. So that’s how we have managed to have some money and jewellery at that time. But they threw all the books out of the window, every book. They said they’re communist books. They threw every book out of the window, to the backyard. Every one! And whatever they could find, I can’t remember. We couldn’t care less anymore; we were already by that time very low. And as long as they didn’t take us at that time, and just took their articles we were already satisfied, we didn’t say anything.

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