1. Did you lose hope during the Holocaust?
Living in London during the war I was not fully aware of the full horror of the Holocaust.
2. What is your attitude toward God and religion?
I had lost faith in God, how could he allow such injustice, was there still a God? Only years later, in my twenties, after meeting good, intelligent people in England did my faith in God return.
3. Have you returned to your hometown and your house since you were liberated?
When I had reached my 75th year (by then I had given up full time work) did I summon up the courage to travel to Germany. I visited my former, beloved, governess, Hede, who lived in a small village in the Swabian Alb (Wüttemburg/Baden). She told me she had been arrested twice by the nazis, because she assured people that the jews were good people, she had worked for them, that it was all lies about them. The Nazis warned her, she must stop this talk otherwise she would end up in a Concentration Camp, and they guaranteed she would not survive it. Hede died just a few years later at the age of 92. We are still friendly with her family, they are very hospitable to us.
I also visited, several times, my former neighbour and playmate, Margaret Duisberg. She is a florist ‘par excellence’ and a flower painter. Her father was also arrested for speaking up for the jews, but because of his great popularity in our town, the nazis let him go. In April 2008 my daughter and I visited Göppingen on the occasion of Margaret’s grand exhibition in honour of her 90th Birthday. The show was on six weeks in the ‘Rathaus’ [Town Hall] presented were over 100 of her paintings , mainly watercolours, her painting are now sold all over the world. Margaret and I have a lot in common; in Religion we are both non-denominational, and of course we are both artists, designers and lecturers. She still lives next door to our former house, and I am invited to stay with her anytime.
4. Did you tell your children? If not – why ?
No. My daughter, when younger, watching television, got far too upset. Only in the last ten years could I speak to her about my family. She always cried about the loss of her grandparents she never knew and about the dreadful suffering of her uncle Richard, who survived the camps and the Labour force.
5. What didn’t you tell your children ?
6. Why did you keep silent all those years?
Only Gradually, in small stages, was I able to speak about my childhood. At first amusing happenings, then bit by bit about the life. When I was in my thirties and forties, I wrote my book‘Laugh or Cry’ because at first I had been completely unable to speak about Germany, my late husband suggested psycho-analysis, as this was very fashionable in the 1950s and 1960s, all his artist and writer friends, including himself went to see their ‘Shrink’. I felt I neither wanted to spend the time, nor the money, on going to the ‘Shrink’. At the time I was working as a designer and manufacturer in ladies wear, I was doing very well indeed, so I dictated to my secretary, as I could not type. The I put the script away for forty years! The script had helped, but only a little to myself-imposed amnesia. Nothing German! Nothing French!
When I retired at 75, I decided I owed it to my family to give a record, sort of memorial. I decided to tidy up my typed script, as it needed condensing into a manageable size. In order to check if my chronology was correct I purchased a few ‘Learned tomes’ for authenticity, but these ‘Nazi’ books had illustrated jackets which upset my daughter, she thought these were evil books and threw them down the stairs! I had to make the disappear, I gave them to my friend and secretary, to keep for me.
7. Doesn’t talking bring back memories?
Still now I have sleepless nights, I see things, I hear things, of these happenings from the past. Since the publication of ‘Laugh or Cry’ it does not seem to hurt so much. I feel pity for the German brainwashed children, who did not have a chance to grow up normally.
8. Do you feel different from other people or the same?
I always felt different from most people, possibly because I was brought up in a cultured, intellectual and highly moral background, this is what I thought in my childhood. It has nothing to do with Nazism.
9. Why didn’t your parents take the whole family and escape?
My father did not understand the seriousness of the situation. He felt safe, people adored, almost venerated him. He did not allow my young brother, then aged twelve, to join a Children’s Transport. Father said he was too young.
10. If you couldn’t have done anything in order to escape how is it that you survived?
Miss Edith Rosenthal, a kind lady, the matron of the orphanage in Hamburg, where I was staying during my studies at the Hamburg Fashion College, had entered my name on her list for a Children’s Transport to England.
11. What is your attitude toward the Arabs?
I wish for jews and Arabs, they are brothers, to live in peace. My family in France are Moslem Sufi, we are close and love each other.
12. What do you feel today toward the Germans?
I pity them for the crimes of their parents, and for the brainwashing they were subjected to.
13. What were you lacking most in the camps?.
14. During the Holocaust what did you think of doing after the War?
On reaching 18 years of age, I was called up, first for essential work, then for war work. The tribunal for aliens had accorded me ‘Grade C’ – friendly enemy aliens, because my family was well known in England, therefore I and my sister Susan were not interred. We hoped the war would end, we did not think further. I worked several years for the American Red Cross.
15. What did you feel at liberation?
God be thanked.
16. Do you dream sometimes about the things that happened to you?
Things, happenings, come back to me in pictures, at night, awake, not in dreams. I also hear them.
17. What is the most awful thing that happened to you?
18. Did the Jews help each other during the Holocaust?
19. What helped you most during the Holocaust?
20. During the years does dealing with memories become easier?
Yes, my book has done this for me.
21. Is there anything you regret doing during the Holocaust?
22. Did anyone help you during the Holocaust?
Miss Edith Rosenthal
23. What scares you most now?
If my daughter gets upset and so distressed over the Holocaust.
24. Did the Holocaust change you as a person?
25. Were you afraid during the Holocaust?
26. What did you feel during the Holocaust?
27. What did you dream about at night during the Holocaust?
28. Have you met neighbours/classmates after the Holocaust?
A neighbour. I have avoided former classmates. My cousin sees them, she is even friendly with Trudi Fahuer, the half-Jewish girl who was the first one in our class to join the ‘young maidens’[BDM] and to wear the brown uniform in school. Trudi pretended she had a Jewish Great-Grandmother, but she had bad luck, she was thrown out of the BDM, as her mother was 100% Jewish.
29. Are you still looking for your siblings?
30. Have you met anyone that does not believe your story?
During the early part of the war people in England thought stories of Nazi cruelties were exaggerated, that one should not believe them. I did not talk about anything, hoping also it was not true, I had been told, via Switzerland, that my parents had been ‘deported East’ but I did not want to believe it.
31. What is your attitude toward deniers of the Holocaust?
There is sufficient evidence for any sensible person.
32. What do you feel about Switzerland and the Jewish gold?
I know for certain that my Grandfather, Moritz May regularly sent large sums of money to Switzerland, but where I have no idea, as to talk about money was not done, it was considered vulgar, and certainly not in front of us children.
33. What is your personal moral of the Holocaust?
The perpetrators of the Holocaust had their personal morals totally destroyed.
34. Why were the Jews hated so much?
I did not personally experience ‘hatred of the jews’. In my home town jews were respected, they were good employers. The welfare facilities in their factories were better, they paid better wages, they gave generously to charities. I saw cartoons portraying Jews as criminals, without realising they meant us!
35. Can you explain the fact that such a civilized nation destroyed human beings?
Brainwashing a whole nation.
36. Did you keep the dietary laws during the Holocaust?
In my family we did not keep any dietary laws since the beginning of the 19th Century. Father explained that formally they were designed as Health laws, as there was no refrigeration.
37. Are your children different from other children?
38. What happens to you during Holocaust Remembrance Day?
In 2008 I sent copies of my book to various people and institutions. I received a nice thank you letter from the Duchess of Cornwall.
39. Is there a God?