VE Day 75: Jewish centre members share memories of East End celebrations

Freda Ziff remembers VE Day in 1945. Picture: Jewish Care

Freda Ziff remembers VE Day in 1945. Picture: Jewish Care - Credit: Archant

A community centre’s members have shared their wartime memories as the country celebrates 75 years since VE Day.

Miriam Fugler, 96, remembers VE Day 1945. Picture: Jewish Care

Miriam Fugler, 96, remembers VE Day 1945. Picture: Jewish Care - Credit: Archant

People from Jewish Care’s Brenner Centre at Stepney Community Centre at Raine House reflected on the war and Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 1945.

Miriam Fugler, 95, who now lives in Stamford Hill, said: “We lived in Shoreditch when I was growing up and I was a teenager when the siren went on the first day of the war and I ran home, scared.

“I was one of four sisters and four brothers and I had the happiest but the poorest home. I have no idea how but my mother had a piano, my brother Tony was fantastic with music and later wrote the song Eurovision Save All Your Kisses For Me.

“My sister did impressions and I was shy but I used to sing and tap dance. We had such a happy home.

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“I started working when I was not quite 14 in Charterhouse Square making forest caps for the RAF and the Army.

“The bombing was terrible during the war but on VE Day I remember me and my friends went up to Trafalgar Square and there were soldiers there from every country.

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“That was the best day of our lives, the war was over, people were singing and playing music all the war times, everybody was singing and clapping and kissing.

“My mother made a VE Day party, we lived on the ground floor of Cookham Buildings, everybody put tables out everywhere, people were singing On Coronation Day, We’ll Meet Again and everyone sang the old Cockney songs and people were so happy.

“VE Day was the most magical day. I love Churchill, he won the war for us. I am a great Royalist too and I love Vera Lyn.”

Freda Ziff, 87, from Whitechapel recalled: “During the war my mum worked in the cigarette factory and I looked after the kids.

“We’d go to the shelter in Whitechapel and you knew everyone. My dad was in the Army serving in France and Belgium.

“He was wounded and taken to St Thomas’ Hospital for soldiers in London. I remember taking a steamboat across the Thames to go and visit him.

“It was my mum’s birthday on May 8, VE Day, and I’ll never forget it. Shoes were flying off people’s feet, the gas lanterns were on all night and people tore down the blackout blinds.

“It was lunchtime and there were loudspeakers in the street and everyone was shouting war is over!

“The celebrations carried on all weekend with parties in the streets, halls, churches and shuls. The women brought food and put tables out and decorated the streets.

“Most of the men were still at war. Mum had been a cook for weddings before the war and she’d always say, ‘When the war is over, I’ll make you a great big party for your birthday’.

“My birthday is on May 28 and as the war had ended my mum did make me a big birthday party and somehow managed to find everything to bake a lovely cake so we could celebrate with all our friends and family and my younger sister and brother and all the people who had been evacuated came home.”

The Brenner Centre has been at the heart of east London’s Jewish community since it was opened by Queen Mary and has received several royal visits since opening, including three from Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Eighty years since opening, the centre welcomed its latest royal visitor The Duchess of Cornwall to mark the centre’s anniversary for a celebration last year.

The Jewish Care centre staff and a newly recruited army of delivery drivers now take members meals on wheels with befrienders helping to combat the effects of loneliness and isolation during the coronavirus lockdown.

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