Lilli Flora Borchhardt was born in Berlin on 25 January 1926, the daughter of Jacques Borchhardt, a factory owner, and his wife Franziska. She had an older brother, Helmut (born on 20 October 1922) and a younger sister, Irene (born on 31 January 1929).
In the 1920s, the family’s fortunes prospered and they lived in a spacious detached house in the elegant Nikolassee area of Zehlendorf. But after the Nazis assumed power, the Borchardts were forced to leave their home at Dreilinden Straße 23 and moved to the inner city. Lilli’s father’s woollens factory was expropriated and so the family lost its means of existence.
Lilli first attended the Joseph Lehmann School, run by the Jewish Reform Community, at Joachimsthaler Straße 13 in Charlottenburg. Later she attended the Reform Community’s Holdheim secondary school, which was initially housed in the same building as the Lehmann School but later moved to premises at Nürnberger Straße 66 in 1937.
As the situation grew ever bleaker following the violent disturbances of November 1938, Lilli’s parents put all their efforts into getting their children out of the country. In May 1939, their youngest daughter Irene left for England on a “kinder transport”, where she was taken in by a non-Jewish family.
Lilli evidently missed her little sister very much. In a letter of 2 June 1939, she complained that she did not hear enough from Irene: “I write to you so much. And you don’t write to me at all. 1000000000s of loving greetings to you and Alistair from your sister Lilli.”
As it was now almost impossible to travel, Lilli spent the summer holidays visiting her aunt Regina or meeting school friends in the Holdheim School’s garden.
Her parents’ plan to get Lilli to safety in England was frustrated by the outbreak of World War II. Eventually, the family was evicted from their apartment at Pallas Straße 12 in Schöneberg. In June 1941 they moved to Ebers Straße 18. Here, the four of them lived in two rooms as subtenants of Edith Löwenthal, a photographer.
On 19 June 1942, Lilli was ex-matriculated from school – a few days before all the remaining Jewish schools were closed. Now aged 16, she was forced to work as a harvest hand in Radinkendorf, near Beeskow in Brandenburg.
We don’t know if she was able to say goodbye to her father and brother before they were deported on 24 June 1942 to Minsk, where they were murdered. Lilli Borchardt and her mother were deported on 19 October 1942 with the 21st transport to Riga and murdered in the surrounding woods immediately on arrival, on 22 October.