Dorrith M. Sim
Life Before The War
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INT: Good afternoon Dorrith. It's the 26th of September 2010 and I'm here to talk to Dorrith Sim. Dorrith could you begin by telling us when and where you were born and what was your name at birth?
D.S: I was born in Kassel in Germany in 1931, December '31 and my name was Oppenheim. Dorrith Marianne Oppenheim - it's a mouthful
INT: Dorrith I haven't asked you about your family life before you came to the UK. You were...
D.S: It was very happy
INT: ...mentioning that you found out why your parents never made it - do you want to tell us a wee bit about that?
D.S: I mean, that's all I know. That, that. Mummy Gallimore [Dorrith's foster mother, Sophie Gallimore] had told [her own daughter] Rosalind that the reason that they never got over here, was because they, [the Nazis] they said that my father had bronchitis and they wouldn't let him [travel] over. And my mother wouldn't have gone on her own, you know.
INT: And you were an only child?
D.S: I was an only child but I had a happy childhood there. I mean when I hear about other people, you know, and when it was Kristallnacht, I think my father worked for..
INT: What job had he had before?
D.S: He was in the same firm for twenty-six years and it was a foundry and it says it said he was a 'Kaufmann' and that's sort of the German for businessman. I don't know what he would do. I don't think he was working with his hands, I think he was in the office.
D.S: But, no, after. At Kristallnacht, you know, it was, I had gone to school on my own that day and it was awful, you know. They were vandalising the school and this man had said to me I'd better go home because it'll be a long time until you're back at school again. And I ran to my grandparents' house which was quite a way/distance down, it was, but then when my, when.my grandmother, she must have had a phone I think, and phoned them and my father and mother turned up and then my father said that, oh he said 'I think we're in for a lot of trouble' and I think that would be the day before Kristallnacht. And then he said 'We've got to go to the Waisenhaus house' [to help] and that was the Jewish orphanage. But as I say, you know, I was at the Waisenhaus house but, I mean these kids had had a bad time but I hadn't, I was lucky.
INT: And why were you sent to the Jewish orphanage? Because your parents?
D.S: I wasn't sent, [I just visited with my father]. It was my father who said 'We'll need to go to the Jewish orphanage' and he took the children home with him. He took about four children home with him. When he found out what had happened at the school he thought this is going to be even worse at the Jewish orphanage
INT: Oh, I see
D.S: As you can imagine
INT: I see
D.S: So he took the children home and, I mean, you know, the Nazis came up. They wrecked our house never mind the children's [orphanage, -these were Jewish children , many of whom had parents who were in camps by that time-. They threw Molotov cocktails through the windows, and the children there had to put the fires out themselves] but they didn't take my mother away but they took my father away. But he got back. But, as I say, the Jewish orphans - I mean I'd never, I mean I, you know. These kids, I don't know if they were happy or not but I mean they must have had a bad time.
INT: It was brave of your parents to send you off as well. As an only child it must have taken a lot ..
D.S: I know. There's a story about this man and he didn't want his daughter to go in the Kindertransport. He wanted to keep her and he actually pulled [her father], he pulled that child out of the train window, I don't know I think the doors were shut. I think he pulled her out the window. And that kid went through all these, these concentration camps - it was terrible.
D.S: Corolla's Regent's father and she and her sister went away on the Kindertransport and the father jumped onto the footplate on the back of the train and hung on until he saw his children safely into Holland. And then he went back to Germany