Lilian Levy, née Dreifuss, and Andrew Levy, UK

 

“I am from somewhere now”

 

By Till Lieberz-Groß

Little Lilian, born 1939 shortly before the outbreak of World War II, is not given much time to enjoy living together with her parents, Hedy and Dolf Dreifuss. Their country of refuge, the Netherlands, does not prove to be safe: Lilian and her parents are arrested by the Nazis in 1943 and taken to the internment camp Westerbork. In 1944 they are deported from there to Bergen-Belsen. Her father Dolf dies in Bergen-Belsen in December 1944, her mother in January 1945. Lilian is very ill but survives. In 1946 she is first taken to an orphanage in the Netherlands and from there to the UK to be adopted by Frieda and Dr. Henry Davidson.

Lilian Levy and her son Andrew Levy were participants of the visiting program of the City of Frankfurt in 2017.

 

Frankfurt: A happy young couple

 

They are a lovely couple, Lilian’s parents, Adolf (Dolf) Dreifuss, born 1906 in Frankfurt/Main and Hedwig (Hedy) Dreifuss, née Allerhand, born 1905 in Vienna: young, full of joie de vivre and plans for their future

Dolf works in the company of his father and uncle, “B. Bohrmann, Nachfolger” (successors), a well-known factory in Frankfurt which manufactures and delivers silverware for hotels, restaurants and private households. Hedy is a milliner and works in her own fashionable hat shop.

The photo taken in 1937 shows a carefree and happy young couple. But the optimism of their happiness will definitely be destroyed by the November pogrom in 1938. As many other Jewish men Dolf is arrested in the course of the November pogrom; he is interned in the camp in Dachau. This was the final impetus to leave Germany as soon as possible.

Around the turn of the year 1938/1939 Hedy and Dolf first flee to England/UK where Hedy’s sister Alice Deutsch and her husband have been living since 1938, in a suburb of London. But in the course of 1939 Dolf and Hedy decide to emigrate to the Netherlands.

Dolf Dreifuss was born into an affluent family in Frankfurt, owners of a factory for silverware, “Bohrmann Nachf.” His parents live – as later the young couple will do – in Eschersheimer Landstr. 69. Dolf has access to a higher education after which he is trained in the family business to become part of the business as a shareholder later on.

Hedy also comes from a middle class family. She was born in Vienna, but her family moves after the World War One (the Great War) to Frankfurt.

Young Hedy in Frankfurt .

Hedy as a self-assured milliner.

After her marriage Hedy quits her job as a businesswoman working in her own hat shop in Kronberger Str.6 in Frankfurt.

Her decision might have been influenced by the fact that she and her mother Rosa had been mentioned in a Nazi-boycott-brochure in 1934/1935 in a defamatory manner. Here a cutting from the edition of 1935: The “editor” justifies the publication of the brochure from the Nazi perspective (translated): “A response to the increasing atrocities and boycott by Jews abroad”

 

Emigration to the Netherlands via UK

 

The employment situation in England/ UK prevents Dolf from finding a job. So in 1939 Dolf goes to the Netherlands where he starts working at “Hollandia Plate” as a travelling salesman (until 1942). “Hollandia Plate” was a Dutch partner company of “Bohrmann Nachfolger”.

Hedy remains in London with her sister Alice but joins her husband within the year 1939. For a short while the young family live with the owner of “Hollandia Plate”, Leo Otterbeek, before thy move to a flat of their own in 20, Courbetstraat in Amsterdam.

At that time Leo Otterbeek has already become the owner of the former family business “Bohrmann, Nachfolger” in Frankfurt. The business is officially taken over by Leo Otterbeek in June 1939 (permit for the acquisition by the German authorities: December 22nd, 1938) and is in charge of the company (under his own name) until it is dissolved in 1946.

In the summer of 1939 Hedy returns to London, where she gives birth to her daughter Lilian on August 14th. Only three weeks later World War II breaks out. Hedy returns to the Netherlands joining her beloved husband.

 

Occupation of the Netherlands in 1940

 

With the German invasion into the Netherlands in 1940 the situation changes dramatically for many refugees – and that is also true for the young Dreifuss family. First hopes that the Netherlands could remain neutral as it did in the First World War prove to be false. The Dreifuss family has to go into hiding as most refugees have to.

According to Leo Otterbeek Lilian is taken to his brother-in-law; her parents are offered a hiding place at a farm in the Hilversum area where they stay separately from their daughter. A very desperate situation for the young parents. In addition to that there are the worries about their relatives in Germany.

They might have had a chance to survive in their hiding place on the farm. But a radio announcement by the occupying forces at the beginning of 1943 gives them hope that they may have a chance to emigrate to the UK: They follow the announcement that promises British citizens to be exchanged. For the Dreifuss family with a child born in Britain and therefore a British citizen this offer might have been the possibility of a safe exile in the UK and – above all – the end of the separation from their beloved child.

A fatal trap – as it turns out. Ms Seligmann, a family friend from Frankfurt, remembers (translated): “When I arrived at their flat on May 1st in 1943 I witnessed that four Gestapo officers arrested Mr and Ms Dreifuss together with their four-year-old daughter Lilian.”

 

Deportation to Bergen-Belsen and death of Lilian’s parents

 

A few months after having been arrested Hedy, Dolf and Lilian are deported to the internment camp Westerbork (August 1943) and from there to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen.

Even from Bergen-Belsen Hedy sends optimistic “signs of life” to her sister in London. But the living conditions in Bergen-Belsen are unbelievably disastrous: The ration for the day consists of a watery turnip-soup plus a small piece of black bread. Diseases such as typhus spread extremely fast – and more so because the inhabitants of the camp are afraid to take a shower: The fact that showers are misused as deadly weapons are common knowledge in the camps by then. And with finally 60 000 people in the camp and 6-10 people in one sleeping bunk the camp is tremendously overcrowded.

Dolf Dreifuss dies on December 24th, 1944, his wife Hedy only one month later, on January 26th, 1945. Both die from hunger, exhaustion and untreated illness. And until their end both parents try to rescue at least their little darling daughter – sparing their food rations for her. Shortly before his death father Dolf asks another inhabitant of the camp, Yehoshua Birnbaum, to take care of Lilian. Lilian survives malnourished and seriously ill.

 

The start of a new life for Lilian

 

Just before the end of the war the Nazis try to cover up their atrocities and transport eastwards those inhabitants of the camp Bergen-Belsen who are still alive. But the advancing Red Army stops this transport in Tröbitz and in a local hospital Lilian is brought back to life in a painstaking process. Yehoshua Birnbaum, who survives with his family and later emigrates to Israel, is able to arrange that Lilian is taken to an orphanage in Laren in the Netherlands.

He even manages to get into contact with Lilian’s Aunt Alice in London. But because of a severe illness of her husband she refuses to take Lilian in for good. So Lilian is taken to her house by Leo Otterbeek but is only a short time later, in July 1946, adopted by Frieda and Dr. Henry Davidson, a pediatrician in London.

As German Jews the Davidsons had emigrated to the UK as early as 1933. Their daughter, 20 years senior to Lilian, had already left her parents’ home before the adoption. Neither Lilian’s Aunt Alice nor her new family communicate with the traumatized child about her experience: “No, no, my dear child, I can’t tell you” (translated), says Aunt Alice to Lilian and also her adoptive parents keep silent due to false consideration.

So Lilian is thrown back on her own fragmentary memories of her parents and life in the concentration camp: “I didn’t know who I was… I didn’t belong to anybody, came from nowhere and was going nowhere.”

Only after her aunt’s death does she learn about letters written by Yehoshua Birnbaum which shed some light into the painful darkness of her memories. And only in 1981 is Lilian able to meet the Birnbaum family together with her own family. She gets to know that Birnbaum took care of about 50 children at Bergen-Belsen including his own six children. And he remembers little Lilian very vividly even after such a long time.

Father Davidson was a pediatrician, mother Davidson a housewife. As they don’t live according to religious rules, Aunt Alice takes Lilian to a synagogue in London. The leading rabbi there is Dr. Salzberger who also emigrated from Frankfurt and it is especially because of him that this London synagogue becomes a new home for many German Jews. And astonishingly it is only in 2017 that Lilian discovers that he and his family used to be neighbours of the Dreifuss family in Frankfurt, living in Eschersheimer Landstraße 67.

In this synagogue in London Lilian finds a stable youth group – and eventually her husband, Herbert Levy, a Kindertransport-Kind from Berlin.

Lilian completes a training in the commercial field. She marries Herbert in 1961 and becomes the mother of two children: Andrew (born 1964) and Hilary (born 1967) – and is able to live the happy family life she has longed for, knows at last where she belongs to.

Herbert Levy writes in his biography “Voices from the past” (1995) about his family and his life story. In his life he was connected with the theatre in many ways although he earned his living in the textile business. After retirement he accompanies the travelling exhibition “Anne Frank” across the UK on an honorary basis.

 

Grandparents Allerhand and Dreifuss

 

Dolf’s parents live in Bäckerweg 17, later in, Eschersheimer Landstr. 69. As a young couple, Dolf and Hedy, lived in the same house until their escape to London/UK. Dolf’s mother Anna was born in Gießen in 1883.Together with his brother Rudolph Dolf’s father Julius, born 1870 in Bad Kreuznach (Nahe), operates and manages a factory for silverware. “B. Bohrmann, Nachfolger” in Sandweg 21, produces and distributes silverware for hotels and restaurants and private households.

Despite great difficulties Rudolph Dreifuss, Dolf’s uncle, is able to emigrate to the USA in January 1940, but he dies there in March 1948. Julius and Anna Dreifuss also try to escape the Nazi tyranny; they want to emigrate to Luxembourg. The Nazis force Julius and Anna Dreifuss to pay a lot of discriminatory charges such as Emigration Tax (“Reichsfluchtsteuer”) and Jewish property tax – and delay their emigration.

In April 1940 Dolf’s parents succeed in escaping to Bereldingen/Walferdingen in Luxembourg, but this refuge doesn’t prove to be safe: On July 30th, 1942 they are deported from Luxembourg to Theresienstadt. 72-year – old Julius Dreifuss dies in the camp only four months later; Anna/Anny Dreifuss is deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz on January 29th, 1943 and is murdered there.

Julius Jonathan and Rosa Allerhand, née Jenner

Julius Jonathan Allerhand, born in 1865 in Hanau/Hesse, marries Rosa, née Jenner, born in Vienna (or Krakow) in 1870. Their two daughters, Alice and Hedwig/Hedy were born in Vienna. During World War I the Allerhand family leaves Vienna due to economic reasons to take refuge in the (then neutral) Netherlands; according to the family Rosa worked in Vienna as a pianist and piano teacher. After the war the Allerhand family moves from the Netherlands to Frankfurt/Main.

The father Julius Jonathan Allerhand dies in Frankfurt in 1925 and is buried at Rat-Beil-Cemetery. Rosa Allerhand works – as later her daughter Hedy will do – as a milliner. In a discriminatory way she and her daughter Hedy are mentioned in the so called “Boycott-book” of the Nazis, issued in 1934 and 1935.

In the addressbook for Frankfurt in 1928 Rosa is said to be living at Eschersheimer Landstr. 152. Later she lives at the Jewish retirement home on Zeil 92 (nowadays premises for a Karstadt department store). On the date of her deportation to Theresienstadt on August, 18, 1942 she was a patient at the Jewish Hospital in Gagernstr. 36 – today the premises of Jewish retirement homes. From Theresienstadt Rosa Allerhand, then 71-years-old, is deported to Auschwitz on September 23rd, 1942. She is declared dead with effect from May, 8th, 1945.

 

The second generation

 

Andrew Levy, born in 1964 in London, accompanies his mother Lilian in May 2017 to Frankfurt, the home town of his grandparents, Hedy and Dolf Dreifuss.

As a ten-year-old boy he recognizes that there seems to be something inconsistent with his mother’s biography: His grandmother Frieda Davidson, whom Lilian cares for until Frieda’s death, is obviously not related to his Great-Aunt Alice. But his mother Lilian is emotionally not in a position to give answers to his questions. So she leaves it to her husband Herbert to explain to their son what little is known about her past.

Only seven years later can the many voids in her biography be filled in: Lilian, Herbert, Andrew and Hilary get to know important details almost simultaneously due to the inherited letters written by Yehoshua Birnbaum to Aunt Alice as well as the journey of the Levy family to Israel.

The additionally traumatizing silence was not unusual after the war. Parents and other adults wanted to save their children from the horror of the disastrous past – and indeed let them alone with the bits and pieces of their memories.
Like his mother Andrew sees the “Salzberger” synagogue as his Jewish home: the synagogue in London which had been the domain of Rabbi Salzberger, who had been the neighbour of Andrew’s great-grand- and grandparents in Frankfurt and who had married Hedy and Dolf in Frankfurt in 1935.

Andrew speaks Hebrew and is even more embedded in the Jewish religion than his mother Lilian is.
His Jewish identity means a lot to him: “I look at the world with Jewish eyes.” Andrew works as a law lecturer at the University of London.

 

Roots in Frankfurt

 

The former home of Lilian’s parents and grandparents in Escherheimer Landstr. 69 has been torn down and was replaced by a new building in the late 1950s. But in spite of that the week in Frankfurt, organized by the City of Frankfurt, visiting the grave of Julius Jonathan Allerhand, Lilian’s grandfather at Rat-Beil-Cemetery and visiting places where her grandmother Rosa Allerhand had lived, leaves Lilian deeply impressed:

The encounter with and in Frankfurt “gives me a new feeling of roots in Frankfurt… I am from somewhere now”, says Lilian at a meeting with students of Anne-Frank-School in Frankfurt-Dornbusch.

The students of AFS, 10th grade, are extraordinary impressed by Lilian’s life story. It is Lilian’s first time speaking about it in front of such a big audience. One student expresses her thanks and gratitude to the eye-witnesses Lilian and Andrew Levy (UK) and Yona and Tova Dreifuss (Israel) for speaking to them so frankly and openly.

Because of that some students feel encouraged to speak about their own family stories, most of them stories of migration, but one student recalls the suffering of her grandfather at a concentration camp.

On behalf of the second generation visitors 2017 Andrew delivers a very much appreciated speech at the fare-well party at the Römer. And he declares – in unison with the other participants and according to J.F. Kennedy in Berlin – that he feels that he is now a Frankfurter which delights the people from Frankfurt very much!

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

 

Lilian Levy, née Dreifuss, adopted Davidson
born on August 14th, 1939 in London

Visitors’ Program: 2017 together with her son Andrew Levy

  • until 1943: lives in Amsterdam/NL with her parents, Dolf and Hedy Dreifuss
  • 1945: survives Bergen-Belsen
  • 1946: emigration to England/UK
  • since 1946 living in London
  • businesswoman

Family:

  • Marriage (1961) to Herbert Levy
    born on July 28th, 1929 in Berlin
    businessman
    died January 7th, 2015 in London

  • Son Andrew Levy
    born on March 25th, 1964 in London
    lives and works in London
    law lecturer at London University
  • Daughter Hilary Solomon, née Levy
    born on April 6th, 1967 in London
    assistant headteacher
    lives with her husband Mike Solomon (born 1967) and their children Rosie (1996) and Zack (1999) in London

Parents

  • Adolf/Dolf Dreifuss
    born on June 29th, 1906 in Frankfurt/ Main
    died on December 24th, 1944 in Camp Bergen-Belsen
    businessman
  • Hedwig/ Hedy Dreifuss, née Allerhand
    born on August 5th, 1905 in Vienna
    died on January 26th, 1945 in Bergen-Belsen
    milliner (self-employed hatmaker)

Persecution:

  • 1938: Internment of Dolf Dreifuss in Camp Dachau in the course of the November pogrom
  • 1938/1939: After his release Hedy and Dolf escape to London
  • 1939: Move to Amsterdam/NL
  • 1942: They go into hiding after the Nazi occupation
  • 1943: Imprisonment in Amsterdam May 1st to August 1st, 1943
  • August 1st, 1943 to January 10th, 1944: Internment in Camp Westerbork,;
  • January 11th, 1944: Deportation to Camp Bergen-Belsen

Grandparents
Julius Dreifuss
born on May 29th, 1870 in Bad Kreuznach
entrepreneur
died on December 1st, 1942 in Theresienstadt
Anna/Anny Dreifuss, née Kaan
born on August 13th, 1883 in Gießen

  • April 1940: Emigration of Julius and Anna Dreifuss to Luxembourg
  • July 30th, 1942: arrest and deportation to Theresienstadt
  • January 29th, 1943 Anna Dreifuss is deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz and murdered there

Julius Jonathan Allerhand
born on March 7th, 1865 in Hanau
businessman
died on May 15th, 1925 in Frankfurt/Main
buried at the Jewish Cemetery Rat-Beil-St.
Rosa Allerhand, née Jenner
born on October 19th, 1870 in Vienna (or Krakow)
pianist and milliner

  • September 23rd, 1942: deported from Frankfurt to Treblinka
  • declared dead with effect from May 8th, 1945

The Dreifuss family emigrated from Vienna/Austria to the Netherlands during the Great War (WW I); after the war from there to Frankfurt/Main, Germany

Further relatives:

  • Sister of Lilian’s mother Hedy: Alice Deutsch, née Allerhand
    born on April 26th, 1896 in Vienna
    died on January 30th, 1981 in London
    emigrated to the UK in 1938
  • Great Uncle (Julius’ brother): Rudolph Dreifuss
    born on February 16th, 1872 in Bad Kreuznach
    entrepreneur
    died on March 17th, 1948 in Los Angeles, USA
    emigration to the USA in January 1940
    with his wife Rosa/Rose Dreifuss, née Strauss
    born on June 12th, 1888
  • their son Arthur Dreifuss, born on March 25th, 1908

  • Adoptive parents of Lilian Levy: Dr. Henry Davidson (Heinz Davidsohn)
    born on April 8th, 1884 in Strasbourg (or Bromberg)
    pediatrician
    died on November 30th, 1963 in London

Frieda Davidson, née Heller
born on August, 14th, 1886 in Berlin
died on February 4th, 1972 in London
Henry and Frieda Davidson emigrated to London in 1933

Business:

  • Company B. Bohrmann (successor)
    owned by Julius and Rudolph Dreifuss
    21, Sandweg and 6, Baumweg in Frankfurt
    Acquisition by Leo Otterbeek, Amsterdam/NL
    with effect from June 17th, 1939 (authorization from December, 22nd, 1938);
    company is renamed “Leo Otterbeek” on October 2nd, 1941 and dissolved in 1946
  • Hat studio Rosa and Hedy Allerhand
    6, Kronberger St. in Frankfurt

Accomodations in Frankfurt:

  • Julius and Anna Dreifuss in 69, Eschersheimer Landstr.
  • Dolf and Hedy Dreifuss in 69, Eschersheimer Landstr.
  • Rosa Allerhand in 152, Eschersheimer Landstr. / 6, Kronberger Str. / finally Jewish Retirement Home in 92, Zeil
  • Rudolph and Rosa Dreifuss in 45, Schumannstr.


Sources:

  • Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Wiesbaden / Main State Archive of Hesse, Wiesbaden (HHStAW)
  • Institut für Stadtgeschichte / Institute of Town History, Frankfurt am Main
  • Jewish Museum Frankfurt, data base „Deportierte Juden aus Frankfurt am Main“ (Deported Jews from Frankfurt am Main“, Commemoration Site Neuer Börneplatz and library of the Jewish Museum
  • Jüdische Gemeinde Frankfurt – Verwaltung der jüdischen Friedhöfe in Frankfurt
  • Jewish Community Frankfurt – administration of the Jewish cemeteries in Frankfurt
  • Lilian Levy, Family memories ( in a conversation with Till Lieberz-Gross)
  • Herbert Levy, Voices from the past, Lewes 1995
  • Letters of Yehoshua Birnbaum to Alice Deutsch (Lilian Levy)
  • Questionnaire of the “Projekt Jüdisches Leben in Frankfurt” (Project Jewish Life in Frankfurt), Lilian and Andrew Levy, 2017
  • Nazi-boycott-brochure, 1935: „Eine Antwort auf die Greuel- und Boykotthetze der Juden im Ausland“, Frankfurt am Main, March 1935, 2nd edition.
  • Recording: Lilian Levy and Andrew Levy at Anne-Frank-School, Frankfurt, May 15, 2017 (presentation: Till Lieberz-Gross)
  • Recording: Andrew Levy, Abschiedsrede im Römer, May 15, 2017

Photos:
Lilian Levy, Michael Maynard, Rafael Herlich, Till Lieberz-Groß

Research and Text:
Till Lieberz-Groß