A Jewish woman from London who fled the Nazis in Vienna on the Kindertransport is to become the Mayoress of Lewisham.

Liane Segal, 86, escaped to Britain in 1939 when she was just seven years old, and went to live in Wigan with a couple and their three-year old son.

She is a longstanding campaigner against racism and anti-Semitism, and is well-known for running a range of activities for older residents in Lewisham and Bromley.

Outgoing Mayor Damien Egan said this week that he “couldn’t think of a more inspirational figure for young people as our Mayoress”.

After arriving in Britain, Segal attended Sydenham School for Girls before beginning a career as a clothes designer and having three children. She later recalled life in Vienna before she left, and the persecution suffered by Jews.

“I had to go out to the soup kitchens for my parents because they weren’t able to go out. I saw people being beaten up in the streets and I wasn’t allowed to go to school. My father was hiding in the loft most of the time. I remember being stopped by SS men and other unpleasant experiences I’ll never forget.”

This week Segal said she was “honoured” to be Mayoress, adding: “Lewisham is stronger because of our history in welcoming residents from all corners of the world. I hope that by sharing my story, others will see it is as important as ever to provide sanctuary for people fleeing persecution.”

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, said: “Appointing a Kindertransport refugee to this position sends a clear signal that Lewisham welcomes refugees and encourages everyone to learn more about the Holocaust, at a time when anti-Semitism and racism are on the rise across Europe.”

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