Manya was born in Chmielnik, a small Polish town that had a Jewish community dating back to the 16th century. Her father owned a furniture shop and her mother took care of the home. Manya had two younger brothers, David and Mordechai, and was surrounded by many close relatives. She attended both public and Hebrew schools and had many friends.
1933–39: In 1938 Manya's family moved to Sosnowiec, a larger city located near the German border. There she had her first experience with antisemitism. Signs appeared urging Polish citizens to boycott Jewish businesses. The following year, German troops invaded Poland. On September 4, 1939, at 2 p.m., Sosnowiec was occupied. That same day, local Jews, including Manya's father, were rounded up. The following morning, they were marched to a factory, where their heads and beards were shaved. They were held overnight without food or water and then selected for forced labor. Manya's father was assigned to build army latrines. A month later, her mother was arrested for violating the curfew.
1940–45: In 1941 Manya was forced to work for a German company that produced military uniforms. The following year, the Nazis began deporting Jews from Sosnowiec to the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. Manya and her family were saved temporarily from deportation because of their work permits. In March 1943, however, she was forcibly taken to the Gogolin transit camp, and from there to the Gleiwitz forced-labor camp. She never saw her family again; they were deported to Auschwitz. In January 1945, as the Soviet army approached, the prisoners were evacuated on a death march.
Manya and the other prisoners were transported for ten days in open freight cars in the bitter cold to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp. During the journey, she shielded a sick friend from being crushed in the overcrowded car. Manya's arms were bruised and swollen. Later she was taken to the Rechlin camp, where she was rescued by the Swedish Red Cross in April 1945. In 1950 she emigrated from Sweden to the United States. Manya is currently a volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and is an active member of the Museum's speakers bureau.