Rita describes her family background in Hannover, Germany and the night the Nazis arrested her and her mother. She explains how she was able to escape but that her mother did not.
INT: Good morning Rita. I’m here to interview Rita McNeill. Rita, could we begin by asking you where you were born? When you were born? And what was your name at birth?
RM: I was born in 1930 and my name was Strassmann, S-T-R-A-S-S-M-A-N-N. I was born in Hannover and I lived there until the Germans kicked me out.
INT: Right, So could you tell us a little about your early life? What do you remember? RM: I was 9 when I left. I remember clearly going to a Jewish school, going to synagogue, with my mother. My father, I don’t know what happened to him. They lived apart; they didn’t live together. They weren’t divorced, that wasn’t allowed in those days but I didn’t know my father.
INT: Right, at all?
RM: So I was with my mother and the …when the Germans came, and took us away.
INT: I see, I see and what was it like? Were you able to stay in school? In Jewish school were you…?
RM: I was in the Jewish school until I left and then, of course, they came during the night, took my mother and I in the back of a lorry to a camp. To Ahlem which is near Hannover.
INT: And this was in 1939?
INT: But you managed to escape. What happened?
RM: I… My aunt, who looked very German, blonde hair up in a bun thing, and she came and took me out because I had a permit from the Kindertransport, they let me out. And I didn’t want to leave my mother; I kept saying, “No, no, I’ll stay”. “You go, and I’m coming right behind you”. I believed her, she never did. INT: She didn’t survive the war then?
RM: Never saw her again.
INT: That must have been traumatic for you.
RM: It was, it was. It was awful.
INT: Awful. And your aunt did she escape with you? What happened then?
RM: She managed to go to Israel with her family. And the family all said, “Why didn’t you take Rita with you?” But I wanted to stay with my mother, She kept saying to me, “You go and I’ll be right behind you”. And I believed her. I believed her until I was married.
INT: Is that right? You were still waiting. Do you know why your mother particularly was taken to the camp? Was there a reason?
RM: Because she was Jewish.
INT: Just because she was Jewish, I see.
INT: And going back to Germany were you aware, because you were 9 when you left, were you aware how difficult things had become there?
RM: Yes as Jews we weren’t allowed out when the parades passed; we had to wear a Star of David on our arm. And the school was closed, the Jewish school, and I knew things weren’t good.
INT: But your mother, she wasn’t, hadn’t any way of getting out?
INT: She was stuck. Trapped there.