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Derek's Froomberg's Story - Childhood in Brackley During World War II

Derek was interviewed by members of Northampton Youth Forum in August 2008 as part of a community history project with Jtrails, Northampton Museum, NBHA and Inspiration FM. The project aims to create learning resources and history collections to help people understand more about our communities. We hope you will find Derek's story of interest. We would like to know how you think Derek's story can be used to help young people locally and nationally learn about war and the Holocaust.

Here is some of what Derek shared with us in his interview:

I was born in London. In September 1939 we were on holiday somewhere at the seaside when war broke out. My father went to find where we could be away from the bombs and where he could rent a house. We ended up in Brackley - me, my family, including my grandparents, uncles and aunts, about 20 of us. My parents went back to London in 1944. I was at school and stayed till 1947. My family were in the textile business in London. My father commuted from Brackley to London everyday - he was just a bit too old for call up,

We had a wonderful war, out in the country, with open fields and very few people about. Every winter holiday I remember skating on rivers. I had a great time. At school the very elderly strict headmaster instilled in us good behaviour and manners and I learned to play rugby. We were all very happy.

At the school there were 2 cooks who came from north Germany as refugees, two sisters, employed in the kitchens in the schools. They were Jewish. They didn't like what they were doing at the school. I'm not sure how it happened but one went to my grandparents, the other came to us and they stayed and then went back to London with us at end of war. Fantastic cooks! They lost all their family in the Holocaust. One of the two women had got her driving licence. She joined WRVS and drove a truck with like a canteen at the back. She went around 5 aerodromes, Silverstone and others, either training or bombing places in the area. She used to give them chocolates, sweets and she enjoyed meeting Airforce men. That was her war basically.

Right at the beginning of the war there was a base with our bombers on it. They used to take off right over my grandfather's house. We used to sit on the roof of his shed. Bombers used to be fully laden and just scrape over this shed. We used to hear the news on the radio saying how many bombers had taken off, how many had not come back. Bombers raided Hamburg or wherever that night, so we always knew how many they'd lost. When we went to work we always knew how many people they'd lost. We knew every bombing right through the war - we had a great big map on the wall.

After the war they used to dump all the armoury that was surplus. Places like Silverstone, a big airfield, was FULL of tanks and cars and stuff. We used, I remember - I didn't go myself, but others I knew - used to get out of the dormitory window at school, go up there, see if we could get things out of them. They didn't get caught but nearly got caught because they were all guarded with searchlights, dogs and stuff.

At the end of the war when British troops went into Belsen the reports came through. I remember going to the Cinema. Newsreels, not TV, showed pictures of Belsen and then it really came home what had gone on. I must have been about 12 or 14.

My uncle was in the army.and he's still alive and 96yrs old. He went across with D Day. He ended up in the occupied forces in Germany and was the Mayor of a town there. He commandeered a Gestapo vehicle then drove around town with his flag on it. He told me only the other day one of his jobs in controlling the town was that he had to sign death certificates for Germans who had done fairly minor crimes but army rules were very strict in occupied Germany so if you were caught for something minor you could very well end up with the death penalty. He had the job of signing the papers for this which he said was scary and not pleasant.

We were very lucky we were this side of the Channel - If we hadn't been?

The fact is my family and I are Jewish and we lived through it.

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