Jewish survivors of the Holocaust
Lasker-Wallfisch, Anita (1 of 11) The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
Describes her family life, assimilated with culture being written in very big words.
Posted by Bob Massie on 27/12/2016
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2000-05-05; 2000-05-22; 2000-06-09; 2000-10-13
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The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
Lasker-Wallfisch, Anita, 1926- (speaker, female)
Wingate, Jennifer (speaker, female)
Born Breslau Germany, now Poland Wroclaw. Happy home. Father lawyer Alfons, mother violinist, Edith. She came from Gleiwitz. They married in 1919. Comfortable childhood - a cook and maid. Mother played in Kulturbund Orchestra, Jewish Orchestra playing solo. Assimilated, cultured family. Mother had lessons in Breslau until forbidden. Anita's cello teacher wounded in WW1 - relearned to play other way, Herr Otto, then a Jewish teacher who emigrated. Aryan teacher came but said 'could not risk it'. At about 11 went to Berlin for lessons. Mother's mother, Grossmuttel, Cilli. Loved her very much. She had Seder, remembers eggs in salt water. Otherwise no Jewish life. Cecilia Hamburger, lived in Breslau. Father's mother very stern, Flora, they were in awe of her - 'a grande dame' - lived in Hohenzollernstrasse, the children thought she was of the House of Hohenzollern. Cecilia died naturally in 1936. Flora deported at 82. Anita, as youngest, asked the four questions. Did not go to religion classes. Learned Hebrew when had to attend Jewish School. Lived in nice rented apartment. Mother was a good cook as well as the Cook. Simple food. As children lived in a 'spartan' way, eg not allowed to sit in armchair, or just to read a book. Certainly not hungry but a luxury to be allowed an egg at breakfast, was normal for the time not to be spoiled. Mother not strict. Not asked questions about school, she could 'get away with murder'. A lot of freedom and trust. Very happy home. Father wanted sons - 3 daughters. Anita was 'the last straw'. Father expected them to be brave. He was good skier. But did not make them feel they were not living up to his expectations. Good relationships. Her mother made their clothes and Anita did not like being dressed all in the same way, and she inherited things as youngest. Difficult to think back such along time to when she had parents. Parents sad about eldest sister being a Zionist. Father wanted her to go to University, she became a carpenter. They lived in different apartments, very big. Seder in Grandmother's home, Victorian, lots of lace. Father's brother, famous Edward Lasker, chess player, already in America. Mother had sister, neither with children. Father, born in Kempen in Posen; was their undoing as considered Polish quota when it came to emigrating. Has his doctorate - lawyer and notary in High Court. Sang beautifully, linguist. Girls had French governess. They treated her badly a they thought it was stupid. Father: 'you have as many souls as you have languages'. He spoke French, Italian, had linguaphone to learn English, which he found hard. Many books, a Kulturmensch. Took them to Opera and learned story before went. Father had important court case between 2 Adlige - aristocrats, - von Künigel and Haenckel von Donnersmark, who owned land in East Germany. Went on for many years and got dispensation to continue after Jews forbidden to practice as no-one could take over; thought he might be saved because of this. Father had Eiserne Kreuz from WW1. Saturday afternoon 'holy time'. They would all sit and have coffee and cakes and father would read or tell stories from the War, trenches. Read classics, Goethe's Faust. Kept going till 1942. Wrote to her sister then to tell her they had just finished 'Don Carlos'. At least once a week there was a quartet in the house. Always loved the cello, photo at age 3 with instrument. Got tiny cellist - no question of anything else. Elder sister played piano, middle sister played violin but hated it. Played trios, but Anita only one who persevered. Played duets with mother. Joined Jewish school in middle of term. Elder sister involved with Werkleute. Breslau small, people knew each other. Hated school as it was strict. Still has friends from then. Started in small private school - called teachers 'Auntie' - but forced to change to the Jewish school. Anti-Semitism in little school 'don't give the Jew the sponge'[to clean the board]. Did not understand. Father went to Synagogue on High holy days. Eventually people shouted in street, spat. Talked about it at home, accepted it. Knew 'something bad had happened' after Hitler elected but did not understand. Does not recall anything said at school to help them. Gradually people left to go away.
Interviewee's note: Born Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw, Poland) to middle-class family of musical talent. Survived deportation to Birkenau, Auschwitz and finally Belsen before being liberated by Allied forces and moving to England. A world-class cellist, she played with the English Chamber Orchestra for many years. Also discusses the experiences of her immediate family during the Holocaust.