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Lili Todes

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
May 12, 1939
Interview number:


Dr Bea Lewkowicz

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Lili Todes, née Loebl, was born in 1930 in Bamberg, Germany, as the youngest of three children. Her father, Robert, was one of the sons of Hugo Löbl, who had founded the electrical wholesale trade “Hugo Löbl & Söhne” (Hugo Löbl & sons). The company used Bakelite as a material for installation works.

She remembers a happy childhood in a beautiful part of Bamberg until Hitler came to power. In the house opposite hers, the Gestapo moved in and there were often parades. She didn’t attend school for very long in Bamberg, but the short time was marked by antisemitic harassment by her fellow students. During a holiday in Switzerland, her parents got to know Lord and Lady Dunlop. The latter was a stamp collector like her mother and the women agreed that Lili’s mother would send a rare stamp to Lady Dunlop in case they needed help to leave Germany. That time came after Kristallnacht, when her father was arrested. Her older siblings were sent ahead to boarding school in England. Lili and her parents followed in what she remembers as a traumatic train travel across Germany to the Netherlands and from there onwards to England. Her father was later interned on the Isle of Man and her mother had to work as a cleaning lady. Later her father and his brother Fritz founded a new company. Unfortunately, her father didn’t enjoy the success for very long as he died of a heart attack in the early fifties. After Lili finished school, she won a scholarship to study at King’s College Newcastle and Sorbonne. And after graduating, she started a very successful career in journalism. As a member of the foreign department of Newsweek magazine in New York, she chronicled the sessions of the UN General Assembly and reported on world events. In her interview she recalls meeting Patrice Lumumba and reporting about the Eichmann trial.

She met her husband Cecil Todes in London when she came for dental treatment to his surgery. He had been born, raised and trained as a dentist in South Africa.

He changed careers to become a psychiatrist and they married in 1964 and had three children. Lili captures her life in her autobiography “Don’t ask me where I come from”.

Key words: Bamberg; Hugo Loebl & Söhne; Newcastle; Newcastle King’s College. Sorbonne. Newsweek magazine; Cecil Todes;


Full Interview


And on one holiday– it was in Switzerland in Champéry and we met an English Lord, Sir Robert Dunlop. And he and my father hit it off, they became good friends, and my mother was also a stamp collector and Lady Dunlop was a stamp collector. And my father was told by Sir Robert, ‘Don’t go back to Germany,’ and my mother was told by Lady Dunlop, ‘If you have to go just send me one stamp, one rare stamp, and I will know you need help.’ And that’s how we got our papers [to emigrate to England].

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