Context of going into hiding
Once the war had started, European Jews lived in fear and terror of German occupation. Desperately they searched for ways to get out of danger.
However, for the majority of Jewish people, there was no chance to emigrate or withdraw to remote areas of the country. Once under German occupation, severe persecution began.
….everything changed in 1941…I remember them coming to get my father and they were always in my memory, they were shouting, screaming, calling the Jews by all unpleasant names and my father ran in and he said the Germans are after me, my mother locked the door and my father to escape being taken, jumped from our second floor balcony … And I, couldn’t understand what was going on and, I said to my mother, why do they want my father? And she said that is because we are Jewish…
What does it mean to be Jewish? How can a child make sense of the sudden onslaught of violent persecution? Janine Webber remembers the narrow escape of her father from arrest after the Germans occupied Lwów, Poland in 1941.
© National Holocaust Centre and Museum SOC Transcript
Four-year-old Janine sitting on the fence next to her mother Lipka and her brother Tunio in 1936.
© Janine Webber
Nazis controlled every aspect of Jewish life. They dictated where Jewish people could work, attend school, shop, socialise and live. The same antisemitic laws as in Germany applied and Jews were systematically plundered of their assets. The isolation and exclusion of Jewish people was further escalated with the establishment of the ghettos.
…That was a terrible place. There was overcrowding, poor sanitation, diseases and starvation. The people I saw there were thin and undernourished. Once again, we had to work very long hours and every day was a struggle to survive. I felt so alone.
Arek Hersh talking about life in the Lodz Ghetto in 1942.
© Journeys, Children of the Holocaust tell their stories, 2009, p. 110.
Jewish people endured the constant fear of deportation to one of the many concentration camps since 1941. They also feared extermination camps in the East. Subsequently, hiding became a last desperate option in this situation.
By 1942, Germany either occupied, or controlled the majority of Europe, leaving little room for escape. The small group of Jews who managed to hide faced a daily struggle to survive.
How does a family survive in hiding, for years, under shifting circumstances? What saved their lives? Was it the gold alone or might there have been other motivations to help?
© National Holocaust Centre and Museum