Veronica Butler

Posted on 10th April, 2018

Born 1945 in England


Both my parents were German, my mother Jewish. They eloped to England in 1932, seeing which way the wind was blowing in Germany. A year later their passports stamped them ‘undesirables’, stating that Germany could not vouch for the consequences if they attempted re-entry.


My immigrant parents in the 1930's or 1940's


My father became an English apple grower, my mother solved cryptic crosswords and read British crime fiction. I have lived all my life in England, over half of it in Dorset where I brought up a family and taught the clarinet. I have sole British nationality, but my parents’ abiding cross-channel outlook rubbed off on me. Family and friends scattered throughout Europe have been a constant throughout my life, as has enjoyment of European languages and culture, which led to recent MA and PhD studies at Exeter University around a German clarinettist and a regrettably forgotten German writer.


One of my mother’s sisters, a burgeoning classical scholar, benefited from the UK’s earlier cross-channel outlook: the Academic Assistance Council, founded in 1933 by William Beveridge to help politically threatened academics, offered her a position at one of the Oxford colleges, saving her from dismissal and worse under Hitler and launching her on a career of repute.


Statistically I belong to the allegedly pro-Brexit-voting demographic, but I have continued to identify strongly as European. Having enjoyed an increasingly free exchange and common identity with mainland Europe throughout my adulthood, I feel deep disappointment at the prospect of the process going into reverse. As a schoolchild in the post-war 1950s I proudly countered accusations of being German by insisting I was more British than my accusers, my family having chosen Britishness while their nationality was a mere accident of birth. I cannot boast of sharing the Britishness of Brexit.

Veronica Butler - January 2018


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