Doris Moritz

Ninety-two-year-old Doris Moritz (nee Rath), was born in Kempen/Rhein, Westphalia, Germany, on 25 January 1924. Her farmer father, Salli (born 14 January 1884) and mother Luise (nee Gompertz), were not religious, but considered themselves Jewish. Aware of the changing ‘atmosphere’ in Germany, especially after Kristallnacht, they sent Doris to the private Jewish Berlin Kaliski Waldschule for nine months in 1938 ‘to be with Jewish people’ and accustomed to being away from home, prior to her departure for Britain on the Kindertransport, 20 April 1939 (accompanied by her younger sister, Erika, born 1926). The train at Cologne station was full when her parents saw them off; although then fifteen, the interviewee stated that she could not recall her feelings at that time.

 

Aided by Cambridge Refugee Committee, Doris Moritz was cared for by Ms. Rickard, quickly learnt English, and attended a refugee club and the synagogue at 3 Thompson’s Lane. Doris’s parents reached Britain two days before WWII was declared on 3 September 1939; despite their own funds, they ‘had a hard time’ as her father was blind. On leaving school, Doris took a one-year secretarial course, followed by war-work with the National Fire Service in Cambridge, and in 1948 a one-year teacher’s training course in Ordingham, Oxfordshire; she later taught at a junior school in Barnet, London.

 

Doris Moritz met her future husband in Cambridge, which then had a small Jewish community, and married him on 10 August 1949 at the Thompson’s Lane Synagogue. Alfred Moritz (born 11 May 1921) was also a refugee from Munich, Germany (his father was a judge and sent him to Britain in 1937). Their shared experiences brought them close together, and both became involved in British academic life. Alfred Moritz duly became Professor of Classics at University College, Cardiff, but taught classics at the University of Ghana in Accra 1958–60. Seeing ‘black people was a new experience!’ While ‘all the students were black’, the primary children Doris taught were European. These were happy years she commented, during which she and Alfred visited Israel; but No, she did not want to live there.

 

In Britain, Erika had trained as pharmacist in Nottingham, and was an active Labour supporter not interested in religion. Doris’s daughter Clare became a solicitor, her son Michael has become chairman of Sequoia Capital in the USA, and was knighted in 2013 for his service in promoting British economic interests and for his philanthropic work. Doris is very proud of them. They have little interest in their refugee heritage though – ‘the family was born in Britain and has assimilated.’ Whilst Clare attends the reform synagogue in Wimbledon, London, Michael has set religion aside. Doris, widowed in 2003, still lives in Cardiff, observes ‘the traditional Jewish holidays’ and attends fortnightly meetings of her local WIZO – talks held in people’s homes within the Jewish community. She has returned to her former home in Germany, but does not miss it, and feels fortunate to have come to Britain, whereas her father’s sister was in hiding in Holland during WWII, and other Jews were killed; Doris is ‘very British now.’

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@ Refugee Voices 2019