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Dora Love in british Uniform, Neustadt/Holstein, 26 January 1946.

Dora Love in British uniform, Neustadt/Holstein, 26 January 1946.

Dora Love (1923-2011)

Dora Love was born on 21 May 1923 in the small town of Plunge in western Lithuania, the third of four children of Hirsch and Jetta Rabinowitz. Her father owned a successful porcelain and glass business, and in 1924 the family moved to nearby Memel on the Baltic Sea. Four days after her graduation from the German lyceum in Memel, in March 1939, the German Wehrmacht occupied the Memelland, making it part of Hitler’s Greater German Empire. Dora, her sister and one of her brothers were hurriedly smuggled out of the Memelland into Lithuania where she was re-united with the rest of her family in the little town of Šiauliai (Schaulen).

In June 1941, the Germans marched into Lithuania as part of their war against the Soviet Union. The SS quickly rounded up all Jews and crammed them into a Jewish ghetto set up in Schaulen. The ghetto inhabitants had to do forced labour, and in late 1943, when the ghetto was cleared, most of the inhabitants were transported, in cattle trains, to Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig. It was here that Dora experienced what she calls 'the depth of inhumanity' – her brother, her sister and her mother did not survive the inhuman and brutal conditions in the camp.

Dora survived, and in late April 1945, with Soviet troops advancing, she was one of the prisoners who were sent in small boats westwards across the Baltic Sea. Many of the prisoners died along the way; Dora was one of the few who reached the shores of Schleswig-Holstein after seven and a half days drifting across the Baltic Sea without food or water. She was found by British troops. Among them was her future husband, Frank Love, whom she married in January 1946.

After her recovery, Dora stayed in Germany until 1948, working first for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and then the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), a Jewish relief agency, looking after concentration camp survivors who had nowhere to go. She soon became involved in a project to set up a home for Jewish child survivors in Blankenese, a suburb of Hamburg on the river Elbe.

In the 1950s, her husband’s work took her to South Africa, where her two children were born. It was during this time, at the height of apartheid, that she began working as a teacher and giving talks on her experiences under the Nazi regime. She later settled in Colchester where she continued in her efforts to educate younger generations about the Holocaust.