We went to an all girls’ school in Poland, where we were a product of the Polish education, where patriotism and religion is very closely related, where bravery and chivalry is a part of us, and we’re also a product of the parallel Jewish culture that celebrated the holidays. My parents were rather assimilated, but this does not mean that they weren’t Jewish. Before the war, we went to school, my father went to work, my mother kept the house. In the summer, we used to go way, way, way far away in the north in Poland into a little resort town. And we never seen Warsaw in summer; every year we went away. I remember when the war broke out, August 1939, we were in Druskieniki, this little resort town. The mobilization, the Polish mobilization was on, and all the vacationers were gathering, trying to get on any kind of a transportation to go back to their place of origin. My mother was making preserves. This was the seasons to make preserves, and this is what she was doing. My father was livid. He wanted to go back to Warsaw. My mother said: “Look, I have lived through one war, and I know what’s needed. Now is the time to do preserves, we will need them.” And she did. Eventually, we left with the last regular train that left Druskieniki back to Warsaw in September.
Anna Wajcblum Heilman remembers the beginning of World War II. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Born in Warsaw in 1928, Anna Wajcblum was the youngest of three daughters. In August 1939, Anna, her sisters, and her parents were vacationing at a resort town in Poland. Her mother’s response to the beginning of the war suggests that she did not yet realize that the new war posed a far greater threat to Poland’s Jewish population than World War I had.