Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive

Tamara Sessler - February 4, 2008

Being Friends with non-Jews

Correct. Did you have any non-Jewish friends either in Vienna or in Prague?

Oh, yes, in Prague not. In Prague I had no friends at all but in Vienna, yes, in Vienna, yes. Not that I remember any of them. The only one I remember was a Jewish girl, why? Because she didn't write on Shabbat. It's the only thing I remember from school and that the teacher told me that I was stupid, which I was. I don't remember much but in England I had lots of friends.

Non-Jewish friends.

Non-Jewish friends.

Let's go back to this, this orphanage. You said there were thirty girls...

In the dormitory.

...in the dormitory. Were any of them Jewish girls?

No, I think I was the only Jewish girl.

And they knew you were Jewish?

I'm not sure, I'm not sure. Maybe the ones who knew I was a refugee but I was never teased or, or called a dirty Jew or anything like that--never, not one word. And uh, you know, I remember a very, very funny thing. My sister used to save her pennies because once a month she could take me out for tea from this orphanage. And uh, we were always badly off in Birmingham and she really saved her pennies for me to take me out to tea or to take me to the fairground, you know, to give me a good time. And I always wanted to take a girl with me--a friend from the orphanage--but my sister once said to me, "But I wanted to be by myself with you. I wanted to be by myself." She didn't that tell me she really couldn't afford to pay for somebody else that would come be out but she said, "I wanted to be by myself." And I said, "But Teddy I can't. I must take somebody but they never get the chance to go out with their relative and I don't want them to be too jealous." Do you know what I mean?


I felt I had to share my good fortune with another one but I had very good friends in the school. And afterwards when I learned hairdressing I also made a lot of, lot of goyish friends. On the contrary, when I started work as a hair dresser first I was at a little shop where I didn't do anything but swept and made tea. Afterwards I worked in a big department store and the manageress said to me one day when--the first day I started--she said, "You know your name is ??? and you've got a lot of girls here in this department whose boys are serving--whose uh, boyfriends are serving in the army and this German name might not be so good for you. It may be inconvenient for you and they may not like you amongst them. What do you say if we change your name?" Said, "Change it if you like." So she says, "What would you think about being Rita Vincent?" So I said, "That sounds nice," and I became Rita Vincent. During the two years I worked in that hair dressers I was Rita Vincent.

This was in Birmingham?

In Birmingham.

This was in Birmingham.

Wonderful manageress, she was so kind and so nice and I didn't have any hang ups about changing my name. I was already borrowing it, wasn't I?

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