DOROTHEA BRANDER
LIFE DURING THE WAR

In 1935, when Dorothea was eleven the family moved to live in Turkey where her father managed a factory making gas masks. Dorothea went to a small private school where she learnt Turkish. Dorothea remained in Turkey throughout the WWWII and she learnt how to become a milliner. Later the Turks took over the factory and her father was then employed by one of the banks.

INT: That’s interesting. So you went to Turkey when you were how old?

DB: I was eleven.

INT: Eleven. And what happened then? Were you aware of what was happening in Germany while you were there?

DB: Oh yes, very much so, we did know.

INT: Had you left family behind in Germany?

DB: Yes we had left some family behind, right, right. And we were always in touch with Germany with our family and, in fact, after the first year in Turkey we were able to go back to Germany to see my grandfather who was still alive, in Munich. And because it was the Olympics that year we were allowed to bring out some money from Germany and my father bought a very expensive camera, a Leica and what else…?

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INT: And did he do that to spend money and be ablxe to take it out with him?

DB: That’s right, that’s right.

INT: Had he not been able to take his money out prior to that?

DB: Well he didn’t have to because he was employed by the German factory, he was getting his pay from them first and then the Turks took it over and paid him.

INT: Right.

DB: So we didn’t have to take any money out in Germany really.

INT: Right. And when you went back did you notice a difference? Do you remember noticing?

DB: Oh yes, of course, yes.

INT: In what respect?

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DB: Well we knew that the Jews had to leave Germany and, you know, that they were being persecuted and that we were very fortunate to have the choice to go to a country like Turkey who were fairly benevolent to us. And that other people had a much worse time emigrating to various countries including America, or Switzerland or even Austria in those days still.

INT: And did you go to school in Turkey?

DB: Yes. Well I was taught privately. My parents thought I was too delicate to send straight to a Turkish school, which would have been quite difficult because I would have had to learn Turkish rightaway. So there was a lady called Kudret, Mrs Doris Kudret, she was German originally but married to a Turkish engineer and she ran a private little, well, it wasn’t a school, it was private lessons really for emigrant children, of which of course I was one.

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But there were also Swiss children, French children, all kinds of other children in the classes and that’s where I was taught until I was…I think maybe nearly sixteen.

INT: And at that time had you learned any Turkish?

DB: Yes. You couldn’t help really learning Turkish because I would play with Turkish children in the street and neighbours… and she taught us Turkish, we had Turkish lessons, oh yes.

INT: And was your brother also taught by this lady?

DB: No, my brother differed. He was older, because he was three years older they said he is old enough, he can go straight into a Turkish school. So he went into a Turkish, what they called a Lycee, Lycee, I mean a Gymnasium, a Secondary School. And he had a uniform and he went on his bike to the school which was outside Ankara and graduated from there.

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INT: And once the war began did you remain in Turkey?

DB: Yes, of course. There wasn’t anything else to do for us. I mean we didn’t have German nationality as such any more, really, you know. Our passports were taken away and we were stateless really so we had no option but to stay in Turkey.

INT: And yet you’re here in Scotland so what happened that allowed you out of Turkey? Were you all able to leave? Did you, did you meet somebody or…? What happened? How is it that that Turkish time ended?

DB: Well… It went on for a long time, we were there for many years. And at one point everybody had to have a ‘J’ in their German passports so my father said to my brother “You go to the German Embassy and ask them to put the ‘J’ in our passports.” And so my brother didn’t think anything about it, he just went up to the German Embassy and said “Please will you put the ‘J’ in our passports, you know, because we are Jewish.”

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And in those days the German embassy was pretty mixed, I mean they weren’t completely on Hitler’s side, although mostly really. And he demanded they just put the ‘J’ in the passports and he wrote a letter to say that we were no longer Germans. You know, we probably shouldn’t have done that but we did.

INT: And that made you stateless at that point. Is that..?

DB: Yes, yes that made us stateless which was what was right for us to be, I mean, according to the law in Germany. And my brother then went to Istanbul to the university to study physics and most of his teachers were German or Jewish professors who had emigrated to Istanbul. And he graduated from Istanbul as a physicist. But I stayed in Ankara and there was not much I could do because according to Turkish law I was only allowed to be a milliner… you know, a hat maker.

INT: Yes. Why was your brother able to go to university and you were limited? Do you know?

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DB: Well because he had had the proper Turkish education. 

INT: Oh I see.

DB: You know, he had been in a Turkish school.

INT: Right.

DB: So he was allowed to attend the university in Istanbul and graduate there.

INT: And it was because you didn’t have the correct qualifications that you had these limitations?

DB: Probably, yes.

INT: And why were you only allowed to be a milliner? Is that because you were Jewish do you think?

DB: That was, no, that was the limitation for people who didn’t have nationalities. I was stateless really, you know, I didn’t have any nationality.

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INT: So did you become a milliner?

DB: Well I had to go to the only possible school for me which was… I’m leaving out a few things, it would go on longer than that…it was called the School to Learn Trades, a trade school for girls, only girls, and it was really mostly…what-you-ma-call-it, the students lived there but I didn’t. I was able to live at home and go to school every day and I trained to be a milliner yes. For two years we had very good teachers in that school. They were all trained in France or Belgium and the director was a French lady and so it was a very good training. And the other girls liked me because I was outside, I didn’t have to stay in so if they had any little messages or anything I could always act for them. But anyway, I was in that school and learned…qualified as a milliner, yes. There were many other lessons and I quarrelled with the cookery teacher because I thought she was teaching us rubbish and…I was never beyond saying what I thought which wasn’t always very good but…

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INT: And all during this time did your family maintain its Jewish habits or culture?

DB: They didn’t have any particular Jewish culture. I mean, you know, yes but we were part of a very large immigrant community and a lot of these people were Jewish, yes. And in fact that community was very active, for instance they ran seminars. About every month somebody gave a lecture and they were very many highly qualified people. So we might have a lecture about the Hittites or a lecture about some medical subject or…there was always, you know, somebody gave a lecture and then afterwards there was a get-together with drinks and food. So it was a very close-knit community and of course they were called ‘Colony A’ and ‘Colony B’ and ‘Colony A’ was the Nazi, the German Embassy people and ‘B’ was us, the refugees.

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INT: I see, and did you mix at all with local Turkish people or was this mostly your social life?

DB: Well yes if we wanted to, sure, yes. My father had some very good colleagues, Turkish colleagues, some of them were trained in Germany. And then he also had quite close connections with some of the army people who were in charge of various things in the factory because of what they were making, gas masks.

INT: And is that what he was doing in Turkey, making gas masks?

DB: Well he was a director for the factory that were making the gas masks, yes.

INT: That’s very interesting. And then what happened?

DB: Well after a while his Turkish colleagues took over the factory because, you know, they were perfectly able to do it.

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 And he was really, he wasn’t ever quite unemployed because a bank took over looking after him and giving him a job, Sberbank it was called. And they paid him a salary but it wasn’t as good and I often had to go and interpret, you know, with the Turkish officers about things, for my father.

INT: Because your Turkish was better

DB: Yes my Turkish was perfect.

INT: Right 

DB: And…gosh, what else?   

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