William Dieneman

William Dieneman (b. Wolfgang Dienemann) was born in 1929 in Cottbus, Germany. He was enrolled in the Jüdische Volksschule (Jewish School) in Schöneberg, Berlin in 1936. The school was burnt down during the Kristallnacht pogrom, and his father was arrested and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. William later recalled that “The whole transition from being normal citizens to outcasts was very strange: our neighbours in Berlin, the Von Klodts, were Nazis. When my father got arrested, Von Klodt came round with a bunch of flowers expressing his sympathy.”

William fled from Berlin alongside his sister as a Kindertransportee, arriving in Southampton in January 1939. His parents were also able to escape to Britain before war broke out, although his father was interned as an enemy alien in 1940.

William was initially placed with a foster family, before he was accepted to Avondale Prep Boarding School in Bristol. The school was used as an air raid shelter and he was evacuated to Oxford. He remembered that “There was a big refugee community in Oxford; they had a Reformgemeinde [Reform Congregation]. I remember Rabbi Rosenberg. I had my bar-mitzvah there, but this was the last time in my life I had a real connection with Jewish life.”

He then got a job at Christ Church Library in Oxford and decided to study French and German at the college, graduating in 1951. He qualified as a librarian, working at the Commonwealth Forestry Institute before moving to Nigeria to work at Ibadan University. He also worked in the United States and at Trinity College Dublin, where he met his wife Marisa, who he married in 1964.

In 1970, the family (which by this time included their daughter) moved to Aberystwyth for William to become the librarian of Aberystwyth University Library. He remained in the job until his retirement 1995. He died in Aberystwyth in 2018, aged 89. 

Read William’s interview with Andrea Hammel (External)
Avondale School Picture, 1941. William can be seen in the second row from the bottom, second from the left (© Rachel Dieneman)
William (right) meeting Prince Charles at the official opening of the Hugh Owen Library, Aberystwyth, 1976 (© Aberystwyth University)