Story of Hampstead fashion house founder who escaped the Nazis features in new book
The story of a Hampstead woman who escaped persecution in Nazi Germany as a child features in a collection of 20 inspiring personal histories published in a new book this week.
Anne Bruh, 90, shared her story of how she fled her homeland and went on to build an international fashion empire.
The book, called A Nation of Storytellers, is the culmination of a competition by publishing company Blurb to find stories people wanted preserved forever.
Thousands of people entered and, from all the stories submitted, the top 20 most uplifting tales were chosen by a panel of judges to be featured in the book.
Mrs Bruh was encouraged to submit her story by her grandson, Adam, who wanted to learn more about his family history.
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Mrs Bruh said: “It was a wonderful experience to have had the opportunity to tell this story and now my family and I have a wonderful book, a physical record that will be treasured forever.”
Sharing her story helped Mrs Bruh to return to her home town earlier this year for the first time since she left Germany all those years ago.
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She visited her old house and the cemetery where many of her relatives are buried on the emotional trip.
Raised near Dusseldorf, in a well-established German Jewish family, Mrs Bruh’s blissful childhood was ruined by the Nazis’ rise to power.
Her family’s business and property were confiscated and Mrs Bruh, along with her siblings, were subjected to beatings by children who were once friends.
They left Germany for Holland in 1938 but, without the necessary papers to cross the border, ended up in a refugee camp.
The family’s fortunes were transformed when Mrs Bruh accepted a job as a typist at a London organisation that hired Jewish refugees aged under 17.
Her son Robert, who stepped in to finalise the story when Mrs Bruh fell ill just before publication, said: “Without knowing a word of English, working with Cockneys was difficult but funny.
“She later had to relearn English – that ‘piper’ was actually pronounced ‘paper’.”
Mrs Bruh met her husband, a fellow refugee from Berlin, and together they set up their own fashion house, Frank Usher, which became an influential force in the British fashion industry and had offices all over the world.
When her husband fell ill, Mrs Bruh took over as managing director and remained there until she retired aged 80.
Her son said: “She’s not really told anyone her story before and people should know.”