Singing through the suffering: Meet pop star, First Dates sensation and holocaust survivor Dorit Oliver Wolff
Dorit Oliver-Wolff wooed audiences nationwide when she met John at the First Dates Hotel in September 2019. But, though it was the first time many of us met her, 84 year old Dorit has spent her whole life onstage
In the 50s and 60s, she was a premier pop-star and pin-up model in Germany. Living in the heart of Germany’s thriving post-war culture she sang Jazz, Blues and re-imagined folk hits in concerts, on albums, cabaret shows and the theatre, hits like the catchy “Oh Yes, Das Ist Musik” earned her legions of fans.
Nowadays, she’s a public speaker, giving talks to schools, community groups and businesses about the darker side of her life: the time she spent fleeing Nazi persecution as a little girl in the holocaust.
Dorit was only five when Belgrave was bombed in 1941. She and her family survived by the
skin of their teeth and, fleeing the war, decided to go to Hungary.
Dorit’s ordeal didn’t end there,however, and it wasn’t long before Nazi anti-Semitism made her life a new,terrifying hell.“Overnight like a volcano, it had burst out that all Jews had to die.“Soldiers would come to their house and give them half an hour to pack everything.
“Some of them were put into ghettos, some of them sorting houses, some into workhouses.“People had to leave everything behind”.
Refusing to wear the Star of David, Dorit and her family did their best to blend in, to avoid Nazi persecution whenever and where ever they could.
Her mother masqueraded as a Red Cross nurse and Dorit, with the help of her grandmother, scavenged for food because they didn’t have coupons for rations.
“For years of my life, we were hiding and starving.”
Even there Dorit’s love of music shone through. She took to singing and dancing to help keep her family entertained through the long, lonely months of hiding.
Through singing and writing songs, she created ‘a little cocoon’: a safe, happy place far removed from the violent world around her:
“If I was afraid, I would go back to my cocoon. It was a good place to be.”
The Holocaust is a part of her life Dorit refuses to censor, especially when she talks to children.
“I’m very outspoken,” she says “I don’t speak down to the children, I’m very honest.”
Nor is it something she censors in her book, From Yellow Star To Pop Star which
documents, in sometimes unflinching detail, the horrors of Dorit’s life during the Holocaust.
To Dorit, it’s important to get things right, scarily right, in order to draw attention to the reality of what happened to her: “People are learning history from history books and history teachers. But you can only take in so much. With a person who has physically gone through it, there is a totally different impetus.”
Dorit, who has lived in Eastbourne since 1970, has no intention of slowing down.
“I might be old,” she grins “but my
ideas are young”.
Having just re-released some of her old hits on a CD titled Dorit Oliver Sings she plans on continuing her talks, tours and conferences for as long as possible.
On January 23, she’ll give a talk for Eastbourne’s Holocaust Memorial day, but hopes to continue throughout the year.
“People tell me I’m an inspirational woman,” she remarks, finally “I think that, when I die, I would like to have that on my gravestone.”