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Memories of a Little Jewish Girl

by St Barnabas Library

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St Barnabas Library
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Pearl Dalby
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Contributed on: 
17 November 2004

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Angela Cutting of Leicester City Libraries on behalf of Pearl Dalby and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

I was 5 years old when the war started. My mother had died when I was only 6 months old, so I lived with my grandparents in Moria Street, Belgrave, Leicester. We didn’t have two pennies to rub together, but we never went hungry. Grandma used to go to the local Co-op and ask if they had any stale bread or cake, and the butcher to see if he had any off-cuts of meat. I remember my childhood as being very happy, despite all the hardships.

One memory of the war that I will never forget is the day the evacuees were brought to Leicester from London. We hadn’t had an air raid the night before which was a change! It was a sunny day, and all the neighbours were out in Moria Street because they knew the evacuees were arriving. There was an a Billeting Officer and a nurse, accompanied by around 25 children of all ages and they stood them in the middle of the street. The Billeting Officer went round to all the neighbours asking if they could take a child or two in. We couldn’t take one because we had no spare rooms, but one by one the children were billeted with various families. All except one little 4 year old girl — she was left standing in the middle of the road. All I could hear was the neighbours saying, “Oh, we can’t take her, she’s a Jew”.

As young as I was, I didn’t know what a Jew was and I couldn’t understand what it had to do with the billeting of this little girl. In the background I heard somebody say, “If we take her and the Germans invade England, we would be treated the same as a Jew”. After quite a while a little old couple said they would take her, after all they had had their life and they would try and do their best for her.

The little Jewish girl was called Maria and her family lived in Golders Green in London. Her father was a tailor and her mother was a tailoress. She stayed with the elderly couple in Moria Street until the end of the war. She went to Ellis Avenue Infant School and then on to Mellor Street Junior School, the same schools that I attended. I recall Maria as being very pretty with long, black, curly hair. She was also an extremely quiet girl, and used to cry a lot for her parents.

Even after all these years, I still think about her and wonder what happened to her after the war, and my other evacuee friend Shirley Gibbs. Shirley was from Bermondsey and I know that her house was bombed and the family moved to Orpington.

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Message 1 - Re: Memories of a little Jewish girl

Posted on: 17 November 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Hi Pearl

People while professing kindness can be so hurtful, can't they.


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