Dorothea was born in Berlin in 1924. Her father was a Chemist and worked for a company that produced toothpaste and later poison gas. The family lived in a company owned flat.

INT: Today is January the 22nd 2014 and I’m here to interview Dorothea Brander. Dorothea, can I begin by asking you where you were born and what was your name at birth?

DB: I was born in Berlin in, on the Kurfürstendamm, corner of Joachim Friedrichstraße and the house was bombed, it exists no longer. That was in 1924 and my parents were staying with my aunt and uncle, who were called Weissman and the doctor who delivered me was called Michaelis.

INT: And what was your name at birth?

DB: Dorothea Charlotte.

INT: Surname?

DB: Mertzbacher.

INT: And were they an orthodox Jewish family?


DB: No, my family was never orthodox. They were certainly Jewish, but not orthodox.

INT: Right. You were old enough in 1933, I suppose, to remember the coming of the Nazis. What do you remember from that time?

DB: Yes I do remember it very well because my father worked for the Auergesellschaft, which was a factory which was producing all sorts of things. They started with light bulbs and then went on to chemicals and my father was involved in poison gas.

INT: So he was a chemist?

DB: He was a chemist but he also, they made toothpaste called ‘Doramat’.

INT: Doramat. It was very wide ranging what they produced.

DB: That’s right.


INT: And your father, did he concentrate on poison gas? Was that his field?

DB: Well that was the thing he was mainly involved in. I think at the time it was thought that that would be for coal mines.

INT: To identify the gas you mean?

DB: I’m not sure.

INT: Right.

DB: No.

INT: And your family, was it just you and your parents?

DB: And my brother, three years older than me. And we went to the, what was called the Realgymnasium eventually. First to the Volksschule, the folk school in Germany, and then to the Realgymnasium which was very near our house.


INT: And when Hitler came to power did your father have problems with his job? Or did he keep his job at first?

DB: No he didn’t have any problemsI think because they knew very well that the poison gas he was involved in would be helpful to Hitler’s cause. We didn’t have any problems although we lived right across from the factory in a house which belonged to the factory. And we had good… my father had very good colleagues, one Austrian colleague Dr. Harness and his family who also lived in the same house and she was Jewish. The other people in the house were not Jewish.

INT: So you would have had just a flat in this house?

DB: We had a flat, yes.

INT: To the company.


DB: We had a company flat, that’s right. And the strange thing was we had the first anti air raid shelter in the whole of Germany so there is a picture of me sitting as a child in the anti air raid shelter.

INT: How early was that?

DB: I must have been about 5 or 6.

INT: I see.

DB: At that time.

INT: And is that because the company was concerned for its employees?

DB: No that was because of what they were manufacturing I think.

INT: Ah, I see.


DB: In retrospect that’s what I think.

INT: And then what happened? Your father was able to keep his job?

DB: He was in his job and then eventually they asked him if he would like to start the factory in Turkey making gas masks. So he went to Istanbul to have a look to see what was going to be involved and when he came back he said it looks like a good idea to emigrate to Turkey. We could have gone to Paris but he rejected that, which in retrospect seems fortunate.

INT: Very much so. Do you think he was looking for somewhere else to go because he recognised …

DB: Oh yes

INT: … the dangers…

DB: Yes, yes. Of course.


INT: …that were there.

DB: Yes. Of course. Yes.

INT: So it wasn’t anything to do with the factory that was sending him?

DB: No.

INT: He was, he was, recognising what was happening.

DB: The man who was the president of the factory was a very benevolent man and a very good person as it turned out, who looked after my father always.

INT: So it was his idea that your father look for somewhere in Turkey?

DB: Yes, yes. 

Listen to the testimony

Creative Commons

Unless otherwise stated, the content on is available to re-publish under the terms of the Creative Commons license.

Please check our Terms of Use for details on what is allowed when using our material.