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In the Shadow of Majdanek. Hiding in Full Sight: A Holocaust Survival Story

Once a Jew was trapped under Nazi occupation there were only four ways one could hope to survive: with luck one could survive the camps, one could be hidden by a courageous gentile, one could escape and live in the forest with partisans, or one could change one’s identity, pretend to be Catholic and blend into the ambient population. This is what mother decided would be our best chance at survival. This was not an easy undertaking. To blend into the Polish community it was essential not to look Jewish; not to sound Jewish; to know a fair amount about Catholicism; and be able to think on your feet when unexpected events occurred. Above all one needed to be lucky. With counterfeit documents we changed our name and moved to Lublin, the site of Majdanek, the second largest concentration camp in Poland. At that time I was five years old and my brother was seven. We had to learn new names and to never reveal our past. No sooner we got settled that members of my father’s family descended on us seeking shelter. In a small, primitive house we hid up to eight members of my father’s family.

Irene is featured in volume three of CHUTZ-POW! SUPERHEROES OF THE HOLOCAUST. Published in 2018, this third volume, The Young Survivors, tells the stories of men and women who survived the Holocaust as children. Some were invisible, hidden children who stayed out of sight. Others were visible, hidden children who assumed a false identity and had to learn new customs and new names. Some children survived concentration camps and ghettos, while others were able to escape with their families intact. Heroes emerge in each story – a mother who acquired false papers for her family against the wishes of her husband; another mother who stood up to Nazi guards to protect her children; non-Jewish families who took in Jewish children, risking their own lives.