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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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"Not all Black and White"

by BBC Southern Counties Radio

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Contributed by 
BBC Southern Counties Radio
People in story: 
Karoline Bertha Koch
Location of story: 
The camps at the Isle of Man
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
10 August 2005

This story was submitted to the People’s War site by Torunn Kjolberg and has been added to the website on behalf of Ann with her permission and she fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.

My mother’s name was Karoline Bertha Evans, but she was born Koch and she came to England with her mother just at the anschluss which was somewhere around 1934. When Hitler went into Vienna my grandmother was a journalist writing against Hitler and his policies and she knew they had to leave. They came to England just before they stopped letting people into the country. When the war broke out my mother and grandmother were running a café in south London. In the middle of the night the police came and knocked on the door and took them away to the Isle of Man where they were imprisoned for no particular reason other than being Austrian. They had to leave their cat and their business and everything, they just got a knock in the middle of the night and it was terrifying. They were there for three years and were separated, so my mum and my grandma couldn’t meet. My mum was always very anti-Nazi but was put in together with Oswald Mosley’s wife who was imprisoned there at the same time. Because my mum was quite a good hair dresser she always used to cut her hair —and she always cut it really short! (laughter)
The people who ran the camps there used to always keep them short of food and my mother told me that was the only time she ever ate a seagull. They managed to catch an old seagull because they were so hungry and desperate for food.
There was no trial or anything they were just told that because they were foreign they had to be imprisoned and just stay there. And there was no kind of idea about when they would be released either which was what was so terrifying for them. My mum got TB and she had to go to hospital and they finally let her go. But they wouldn’t let her say goodbye to my grandmother and I’ve still got the note at home saying that she was not permitted to say goodbye. And it was something that my mother remembered all her life and she kept this note and she was quite bitter about it.
I just wanted to tell that it was not all about people giving their lives it was not all black and white.

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