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This audio clip is from an interview with Dorothy Fleming, recorded by the Imperial War Museums on 27 March 1996. In the clip, Dorothy discusses life in Vienna before World War 2.


I went to Kindergarten in Vienna and then I started the ordinary primary school, which I remember as being very academic, very strict. When I give talks about my story, which I do, I tell the people how we used to have to sit with our hands flat on the desk in front of us unless we were writing. This is so that the teacher would know where our hands were, and when we answered a question, we had to lift them with just two fingers up like the Boy Scout salute. It was very disciplined and very academic, and we just studied the normal academic subjects.

We went to school early in the morning, and you only had morning school, and in the afternoon, you did all the extramural things. And the things I did were skating, swimming, gymnastics, and my homework, and most importantly, English.

My mother was an extraordinary woman, although it was a fashion to have your children privately taught French, she thought somehow that English might be of more use, which indeed, it was. So, I had private lessons in English, and as I came to this country when I was 10, and passed the 11+ at 11+, it's all credit to my teacher I suppose!

So...primary school was just an ordinary primary school nearby; you went to your neighbourhood school, and I must have done reasonably well. And then I went on to a school called the Frauen-Erwerb-Verein, which is a little bit like girls' public day school, trust schools in this country, where I started early; I think we should have started at 11 but I was already there when I was 10, and that was also very academic, but it seems that I was doing all right. The idea was that all the girls who went there would eventually enter the professions, and certainly go to university. But of course, I didn't stay there long enough for that to happen.

I had a very happy childhood, and full of activity, and very proud when my sister was born when I was six, and I have very good memories of visiting my father's shop, and going to the opera, and swimming, and going on wonderful holidays, and going skiing and skating, and playing the piano. I wasn't that keen on practising the piano although I was beginning to do pieces before we came away and that I enjoyed; scales I didn't enjoy so much! And I enjoyed my English lessons, and a great advantage to me was that I had been away from home two or three times before I came to this country, so, unlike many of the other children who'd never been away before they emigrated, for me it wasn't such a shock.

Dorothy Fleming - a short biography.

Dorothy Fleming was born Dora Oppenheimer in Vienna, Austria in 1928. She lived in a large flat in the fifth district of Vienna with her father who was an optician, her mother and younger sister. Their life was full and happy. They enjoyed opera, ice-skating and music. Dorothy attended the local Kindergarten and then primary school in Vienna.

When Dorothy was ten years old, Nazi-Germany took control of Austria in what was known as the Anschluss. After the Anschluss life changed dramatically for Dorothy and her family. Soon she was unable to go to her normal school. And after the Kristallnacht, her father lost his two optician shops. Left with no other choice, her parents arranged for Dorothy and her sister to travel to Britain on a Kindertransport promising that they would follow later.

After travelling to Britain, Dorothy lived in Leeds with her foster parents. Eventually, her parents were able to join Dorothy and her sister, and they lived in London in a small flat with other refugees. Dorothy had an uncle in South Wales who had set up a factory on the Treforest Trading Estate and she spent some time living with him. After a period when her father was interned on the Isle of Man, eventually her whole family were able to settle in Cardiff. Her father also worked on the Treforest Trading Estate making optical goods for the war. In Cardiff, Dorothy attended Howell's School. Later she went to university in Bath and became a teacher.


IWM, Fleming, Dorothy (Oral History) [accessed 24 November 2021]

Depository: Imperial War Museums, catalogue number: 16600.

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