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Description

This audio clip is from an interview with Ernie Hunter, recorded by the Centre for the Movement of People, Aberystwyth University (CMOP) on 19 January 2022. In the clip, Ernie talks about Fanny Höchstetter’s (his mother’s) experience as a domestic servant and hotel chambermaid in Wales in 1939.

Fanny and Bertl Höchstetter – a short biography.

Fanny and Bertl Höchstetter were sisters who worked as civil servants in Germany. In 1933, they were both sacked due to their Jewish heritage.

They fled to Britain on domestic service visas (Bertl in 1938 and Fanny in 1939) and initially worked in the Wirral, near Liverpool. Fanny had no experience of domestic service, although her uncle had written her a glowing reference highlighting (falsely) her skills in cleaning and housework.

Once the war began, they were ordered to move to Llangollen. Bertl worked as a seamstress while Fanny gained a job as a chambermaid at the Hand Hotel. She did not enjoy her time in domestic service. In Wales, she met fellow refugee Anton Hundsdorfer, and the pair quickly married. They left Wales for Manchester in 1945, and Fanny later set up a DIY business, while Anton founded his own joinery firm.

Transcript

…mother had the opposite thing of being miserable. Because she was treated, now I gather from Flora [Bertl’s daughter], as a skivvy, and she had to use, I now gather, the outside loo, even though there were inside—it’s a huge house—inside loos, which she cleaned; people didn’t speak to her; she had to eat in the kitchen on her own, apparently, etc. And no one conversed with her, if that’s the right phrase, and so in one sense, apparently, she was quite happy when the regulation came out – you’re too close to Liverpool and this military target and sensitive area – go! So, both Bertl and Fanny, and my father – they still didn’t know each other – were all sent to Llangollen, where they then met up.

[...]

My mother got a job at the Hand Hotel as a chambermaid.

[...]

She buckled down to it. As…it’s as simple as that, and from what I gather, did, you know, whatever was needed, even though she was certainly, most certainly, not used to it. So, how efficient she was, I do not know, because she was certainly not used to that sort of work, doing it at all.

Source.

Centre for the Movement of People, Aberystwyth University, Oral history interview with Ernie Hunter (19 January 2022)

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