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Accession Number: NEKHC:2015.25

Object: Grand Piano Cover

Physical Description: White, orange, red and brown wide woven cover with tassles. Complete.

Information on Item: This grand piano cover forms part of the Dorothy Fleming Collection. Music has been an important feature in Dorothy's family life, the family’s Bösendorfer grand piano had to be left behind when they fled the Nazi regime and increasing persecution of Jewish people. Dorothy had practiced on the piano every day as a child in Vienna. 

Further Information

This grand piano cover forms part of the Dorothy Fleming Collection. Dorothy Fleming was born Dora Oppenheimer in Vienna, Austria, and as a young child enjoyed family life. Reflecting on her childhood home in Vienna, Dorothy recalls the family’s Bösendorfer grand piano, situated in their sitting room, and has happy memories of doing piano practice every day and enjoying learning to play.

Dorothy’s parents, Hanna and Erich, wanted to encourage their daughter and gave her rewards such as sweet treats when she made an achievement such as playing a tune correctly or particularly well. The family lived closely together as Dorothy lived with her parents, her sister, and her paternal grandmother ‘Little Grandma’. Dorothy’s maternal grandmother, Clara, known to Dorothy as ‘Big Grandma’ lived across the road and the pair were very close. Big Grandma was modern in her thinking and also played the piano, together with Dorothy’s mother Hanna they would play chamber music. Hanna played the violin and sang in a philharmonic choir.

As the family were in increasing danger from the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jewish people, Dorothy and her sister were sent by their parents to England on the Kindertransport in January 1939. After the girls had left Dorothy’s father, Erich, who had been an optician in Vienna was able to secure a permit to come to England through the help of a friend. Erich and Hanna left with no money but managed to take much of their furniture with them, the piano had to be left in Vienna. Dorothy’s grandmother, Clara, did not leave Vienna as she chose to stay and care for her husband (Dorothy’s grandfather) Jaques, who had become very ill. Jaques died of natural causes in 1941, and Clara was deported by the Nazi regime to Lodz Ghetto in the same year. From there Clara was taken to Chelmno Killing Centre where she was murdered. Hanna lived to an elderly age in Britain, music remained a feature of Oppenheimer family life. 

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