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Vera Morris was born 1925 as the older of two daughters to educated well-off middle-class parents. The spacious family flat was near Tiergarten in an area where after the Nazis rose to power many ministries were located. Therefore, Vera remembers the omnipresent Nazi uniforms. She doesn’t remember her school in Berlin as a pleasant place especially after the Aryan children were discouraged to be friends with Jewish children. However, she remembers that her class teacher and the head teacher openly refused to discriminate against Jewish students and when Vera left for England in 1934 the teacher marked the occasion with serenade by her fellow students. Vera however remembers one of the babysitters took her and her little sister to a Nazi parade – knowingly, against the order of her parents. When her father found out, he asked her to leave but not without paying her wages for three months, to avoid being beaten up by her Nazi thug friends. Her father worked for a building company (her mother had left Jena university when she got married) and when he was forced to leave his job in 1933 his company provided a position for him in England. At this time of the Nazi reign her parents still had time to prepare for the move and find a school in London. They were even able to bring a lot of their beautiful furniture to London.
Her parents were proudly Jewish but not religious, although both had a Bar and a Bat Mitzvah. He worked in the pottery industry for a while and then set up his own business, which suffered when he was interned. Although this only lasted six weeks (due to the help of a doctor who discharged a lot of internees because of “bad health”) her mother’s hair turned white because of her worries. Vera and her sister were evacuated at the beginning of the war, but her mother wanted them close to avoid internment herself. Vera remembers that by then she felt English and didn’t experience any discrimination for being a refugee from schoolmates at the time in England. Vera loved going to the zoo in Tiergarten and ice skating in winter. She remembers that her parents made the experience to move countries in these troubled times a positive experience. Her grandparents stayed behind, but after the grandfather had died her grandmother came reluctantly to London which was not always easy for –Vera’s mother (the daughter-in-law). Vera attended a school in Finchley Central where she settled in easily and learnt English quickly. Her parents – in order to improve their own English- made English the language at home and Vera soon stopped speaking German at all. She liked school and although she remembers the Blitz, her strongest memory is collecting shrapnel and trying to find the biggest piece. After finishing school she went to study in Cambridge and trained as a teacher. Later she specialised in working with children with special education needs at Inner London Education Authority. In 1952 she got married to her husband Michael and settled in Mill Hill where she raised her two children and continued to work part- time. They had refugee friends, but also English friends through the children and colleagues and her husband’s family. Very explains that she and her husband didn’t started out with a set parenting strategy, but it was always important to make them care for other and feel good about themselves. She isn’t sure about the effects of her uprooting at a young age but feels that it made her more aware of the problems in the world and the existence of disadvantaged people. She has been back to Berlin, but it had no emotional impact. However, meeting Germans of her own generation was a positive experience in so far as Vera realised that a lot of Germans who struggle with their country’s past face those issues and want to take responsibility for the future. Vera’s message is “Lest we forget”. And she has always tried to make people aware of the past she experienced and the danger of it happening again.
The main thing I remember was going to my old school [in Berlin] to say goodbye to the teacher. And the teacher decided to make a little sort of ceremony of it, and tell the class that I was leaving the country. I wasn’t the first, but I think I was the second child to be leaving. The first one had gone very quietly without any, you know, had just disappeared. But in my case, the class sang, “Muss ich denn, muss ich denn, aus der Heimat heraus?” i.e., “Must I leave my native country?” And I didn’t realise until many years later quite how ironic that was.
We were blissfully happy, my sister and I. We thought it was a great adventure. And it was- to us it was really…pretty well all positives. And as I said before, my parents managed somehow to share that feeling, and to hide…what must have been a very, very hard time.
Had life continued as I think it was, and I stress, I think it was, before the 30s… or before the mid-30s, I would have been less aware of problems in the world in general, and in… and the existence of people living in poverty, people living under stress. In other words, emphasising to only a, a limited extent the people living a very different kind of life from my own.
One day the housemaid told my mother she’d joined the Nazi Party. My mother said 'Why did you do that?' Because she was on very good terms with the maid. Grete said 'Because he promised me a husband.' So here was a woman probably in her late 20s, not married, and became a member of the party because Hitler had promised her a husband. She stayed with us till the end. Because that was the only facet of the Nazi philosophy she believed in.
I’m one of the lucky ones who got out early. We lived near the Tiergarten, surrounded by buildings like the War Ministry & other government buildings. When Hitler came we had Nazis in uniform around from the very earliest time. So I was very much aware. In school I was in the same class as some of the daughters of military leaders, Keitel & Nehring. One of the earliest things I remember is I was no longer invited to the birthday parties of that particular group. Although in school we were still on reasonably good terms. I was lucky because the class teacher & headmaster were… clearly anti-Nazi. I don’t like to think what happened to them. The headmaster refused to implement some of the early rules like Jewish children sitting in the back row. How long he could carry on like that I don’t know.