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Memories from Linda Freedman (nee Heimann)

Linda Freedman recalls how her parents came to Brighton having fled the Holocaust and the family business in Brighton and worship at Middle Street Synagogue as well as the Jewish youth scene in the 1960s.

My German parents, Lotte and Josef Heimann, moved from Scotland to Brighton in 1947. They fled the Nazis in 1939 and were not prepared to settle in London. My mother's parents came here from Shanghai in 1948 where they had fled from Germany during WWII [Shanghai was one of the few havens for Jews fleeing Germany in WWII ed.]. Grandfather, Gustav, died shortly after and grandmother Betty in 1956. They are both buried in Meadowview Cemetery, as are my parents.

Dad had a bespoke tailor shop in Gardner Street and they lived in Kensington Gardens. In 1951 they were so fed up with post wartime rationing, that they sold their house in order to emigrate to Australia. When they found out I was expected, they decided to stay and bought a shop, with living accommodation for us in Grenville Place (where Churchill Square Shopping Centre is now located).

The family were members of the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation and we children attended Middle Street shul. I have never since been inside such a beautiful synagogue and only after many years, appreciate how stunning was the Victorian interior design. The cheder was held twice weekly in Middle Street Primary School on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings.

I went to St Margaret's Church of England Primary School in Queensbury Mews, which was possibly one third full of Jewish children, but closed down for re-development in 1962. St Margaret's House now stands on the site where the church and school stood. I then spent a year at St Paul's Church of England primary school- attached to St Paul's Church in West Street- then my sister Hetty and I both got scholarships to Varndean Girls' Grammar School, which is now co-ed comprehensive.

In 1965 we were compulsorily purchased by Brighton Corporation (as it was then) to make way for development of Churchill Square Shopping Centre and car parks. I attach details from the book 'Churchill Square Revisited' which give details of the development and mentions my family- the tailor whose life savings were in the shop and photo of the shop just before demolition...

My father relocated his tailor shop to Upper Market Street in Hove and we lived above the shop. As teenagers, we spent many happy days either at the Cordoba coffee bar in Western Road or the 'Maccabi Beach'- where all the Jewish teenagers used to congregate with their 'trannies'- at the bottom of Brunswick Square in the summer. Maccabi Club had petered out by the mid '60s and we sometimes went to the Liberal (synagogue) Club in Farm Road or started meeting at Achdud every Monday.

After my father died in 1969, I moved to London in 1971, to join my married sister, my mother moving up in 1972.

I met my husband Brian, who was born in Hove and moved to South Africa when he was 3, in London in 1981. His mother had in the meantime moved back to Hove from South Africa and I became acquainted again with my hometown. We bought a second home here in 1994 and moved back permanently in 2006 leaving our children in London. We knew that there was still some sort of Jewish community here so we wouldn't feel too isolated. The call of the sea, bracing air and beautiful Downs was too compelling.


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