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Marion Smith

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
September 1938
Interview number:


Dr Anthony Grenville

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Marion Smith (née Lehrburger) was born to prosperous, assimilated parents in Bogenhausen, Munich. Her father helped run the family factory; her mother was originally from Berlin. In the 1920s Marion and her family moved to Berlin, where she was educated at a good secondary school, and did not experience antisemitism before 1933. In the 1930s she worked as a sales assistant and spent a period in Prague, where her brother Egon Larsen (Lehrburger) was a journalist.


Marion emigrated to Britain in September 1938 on a permit for domestic service, although she disliked this type of work. During and after the war she worked for the Foreign Office (Political Warfare Executive) on the re-education of German prisoners of war. She married Lewis Smith, a British Jew originally from an Orthodox East End background, and they lived in North West London. Marion taught evening classes in German at college.


Full Interview


My brother had to leave Germany. One of the first things they did, they expelled people from the Reichsschrifttumskammer, which he had to become a member of in order to write. You couldn’t become a member if you were Jewish. So he went to Prague because that was the only place where you could go and write in German. He already had a name, so he went over to the Prager Tagblatt.

I had the domestic permit. We had to clean the rooms every day - although there was nobody in them. I also had to clear the grates, then the butler came after and laid the fire. The butler and the cook were the most important people. We were supposed to be in the servants’ hall with the others. So if I sat in the room, I had either the choice of sitting there in the cold or joining the others in the servants’ room.

My friend lived with a landlady. One of her grandsons mentioned the government was trying to recruit German-speaking people for war work. I was in the stencil department. We did stencils of German war communiqués. Based in Ingersoll House. They called it PID, political intelligence. They were editing a paper for the German prisoners of war, in German, to convert them to democracy. First called Lagerpost & later called Wochenpost. I could also contribute my own ideas. Like a puzzle corner.

Some weekends we spent in Bletchley Park which we weren’t allowed to mention. I don’t know why we were there. We did the same work as we did in London. Nobody knew any German. I don’t think anybody had anything other than school German. Early morning tea which I never liked. There was a Professor Stirk. He & Dr Reichenbach had a row over some grammatical point, I do remember that. It struck me as rather odd, that he, merely a teacher, was grammatically trying to teach a journalist how to write an article. It seemed to me quite… [Laughing]

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