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Eyewitness to History: Halina Litman Yasharoff Peabody

Halina Peabody was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1932, and moved to Zaleszczyki soon after. After Germany invaded eastern Poland in 1941, Halina, her sister, and their mother were forced to move into an open ghetto. Halina’s mother managed to buy documents from a Catholic priest allowing the family to assume new identities, which helped them avoid capture by the Nazis. They later were reunited with Halina’s father who had been a member of the Anders Army. After the war, the family settled in England.


Bill Benson: Welcome. Thank you for joining us for First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors. My name is Bill Benson. I have hosted the Museum's First Person program since it began in 2000. Thank you for joining us today. Through these monthly conversations we bring you first-hand accounts of survival of the Holocaust. Each of our First Person guests serves as a volunteer at the Museum. We are honored to have Holocaust survivor Halina Peabody share her personal first-hand account of the Holocaust with us. Halina, welcome and thank you so much for being willing to be our First Person. Halina Peabody: Thank you very much for your introduction. Thank you very much and hello, everybody. Bill: Halina, you have so much to share with us so we're going to go ahead and get started. You were born December 12, 1932 in Poland. Please begin today by telling us about your family and life in your hometown of Zaleszczyki leading up to World War II. Halina: Well, this was a resort town and the weather was fantastic in the summer. It was very hot, we could go on the water and in the winter you could go skiing then skating there. My mother was a champion swimmer so she loved the water. She did water skiing, that too, and she taught me to skate and to ski and she loved every sport. And my father was a dentist so he was, he's the one in the middle, my mother is in front of him. To the left are two of my grandparents who came for a visit from Krakow, where we were all born, and this is a friend on the right. Bill: So Halina you started to tell us about your father's occupation. So he was a young dentist at the time, right? that's correct and that's why we were in the small towns of Zaleszczyki because he felt that it was too difficult to start a practice in a town like Krakow full of professionals. So when they got married they decided to find a smaller place, and Zaleszczyki was a perfect little place for us because the weather was wonderful and we had a very nice life there. Bill: You already mentioned that your mom was quite the athlete. Tell us more about her. She was really a very, very unique person. Halina: Well she was a natural. She started swimming very young when her older sister, that's Irka here, her older sister, Irka, when the other sister... Bill: So Irka's on our left, right? Halina: Yes. My mother is on the right and I'm in the middle. And so when she took her to the water and she was just beginning to learn to swim, she still was so fast, nobody could keep up with her. And eventually she won the Polish championship became very famous and enjoyed every other sport that she could. She was absolutely fearless. She would jump from the highest platform, she skied and also jumped on skis, she skated, and as I said I was skating at five because she taught me. And I had bicycles and tricycles and dolls and my Shirley Temple doll which I have it still, not the real one, but somebody bought me one just as a memory. So the life was very, very good. Bill: In fact she was not just the national Polish champion. I think she was for three consecutive years. Halina: Yes, and she was going to the Olympics but the crawl came in. She did the others, this, which one is that one? Bill: Breaststroke, yeah. Halina: Breaststroke, yes. And when the crawl came in, apparently that did not make her the fastest anymore so she did not make the Olympics. That's what she told me. Bill: Tell us a little bit more about Zaleszczyki. You said it was a resort town and it was, I believe right on the river Dniester, is that correct? Halina: Dniester, yes. It was a natural, Dniester was a natural frontier between Poland and Romania. And when you went on the boat, you could go only halfway because it had buoys in the middle, but there was a very friendly frontier and you could walk over, get a daily pass to go. So you know we used to go over for grapes and other fruit although we had them in the garden. You could grow all these things in a garden because the weather was so fantastic. So we we could go anytime and as I said was very, very friendly. Bill: And you described that you had two beaches in Zaleszczyki and I like the name of the beaches. And here you are at the beach. Halina: Yes, Sunny and Shady. Bill: That's the name of the beaches right? Halina: One was sunny, one was shady, yes. Bill: What was it like for you to grow up in a resort town? I mean, that sounds remarkable. Halina: Well this was a wonderful life, as long as it was peaceful. And then my mother explained to me that, well, she had a big tummy but I was going to have a brother or a sister. Never told me it was a stork coming, not stork coming, no. She just told me the truth. My mother always told me the truth. And she went back to Krakow to give birth because she wanted to be near her mother. So I was left with my father and waited for my mother to come back with my baby sister. Bill: And this is Ewa who I think was born in June of 1939 just really two months before the war began. We have another photograph here. Tell us about this before we begin to talk about the war years. Photograph of, yeah. Halina: That again is before the war. That's my father, the first one, there's a friend of ours, and my mother is in the middle, and then my grandfather, and then there's another lady friend, and then my grandmother, and a friend again. And they were, this was still before the war they were just on the river to enjoy the weather and the views there. Bill: It's a lovely photograph. Halina, in September 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west while the Soviet Union invaded from the east, occupying your town. Your father fled across the Dniester river into Romania. Tell us why your father went across to Romania at that time. Halina: My father and many other people grabbed whatever they could they the gate was open and when they heard that they were going to be overtaken by the Russians they rushed over my father because he was afraid to being conscripted into the Russian Army which was what they did in the first world war and that's like 20 years hard labor and you couldn't get out. so he ran away by himself because he felt that he was the one in danger and he didn't think women and children are in danger, but after a while the Russians came in they demanded the gold and the silver and they pilfered and they took some people and arrested them for whatever they felt needed to be and my father and some other people that rushed and over so quickly decided maybe things are now settled then you know maybe they could just slip by quietly over and just go back to their families the river was frozen over so they tried to cross back of the frozen river and what happened was that the Russians had sealed the border by then and they caught them all including my father and they arrested them all and in my father's case they said that he was a spy because he went and he came back and they on trial on the trial they gave him 20 years hard labor and sent them off to Russia and for one year we didn't hear anything so they sent him to and to Siberia right so for hard labor a 20-year sentence and was there was there any fear that you and your mother or sister could also be sent away indeed there was and they we were ready my mother was all packed we were supposed to be taken to Russia as well to siberia but they didn't pick us up nobody knew why but they threw us out of a house to a small town just just out of the i don't know not too far from from a little town called Tłuste and that we were told to live in this sort of uh home for different other people that they throw out and that's where we were supposed to be. So now Halina you are in this new town um Tłuste under the Soviet occupation what was life like under the Soviets for you with your mother alone caring for you and your baby sister, Ewa? Halina: I frankly don't know how she managed. I do know that I was put in school but instead of going to kindergarten that was I was supposed to go and they dropped everybody one class so I was pre-Kindergarten. The reason for that is because they already made the plans that they were going to forever stay there and they were going to teach us how to be good Communists. I was, you know, six and a half, seven years old but that was apparently the plan. Bill: so they're there basically to train you to become a Communist at that time. Halina: That's correct, yes. Bill: And the picture we just saw that was you and your mother and your sister while living in Tłuste under the Soviets and that's the only baby picture of her that Halina: And that's the only baby picture of her that we have. Bill: A couple of moments ago Halina you mentioned that your mother didn't hear, none of you heard from your father for a good long time but eventually you did he did get some correspondence from him. Halina: After a year apparently that he had been in the prison for that year then he was out working the hard labor part and so he contact contacted us and he told us where he was and he was in our hands in Russia and he was working there and uh he just wanted to know if everybody was how we were doing and had a little bit of contact with us so my mother did send him a pillow I remember and just a few a couple of times the exchange of letters. Halina, you were eight years old when Germany attacked the Soviet Union and occupied the rest of Poland including where you were living. Conditions of course turn dramatically worse for Jews including for your family. Tell us what happened once the Germans took control of where you were living in poland. Halina: Yes when the Germans were coming, the Russians disappeared and my mother just packed us up and we went back to Zaleszczyki into our house and settled in waiting for the next occupier. and then they arrived with great noise and it was very frightening. They came on on motorcycles with very flashy black boots. I remember I was standing there, you know, and watching and I remember my mother pulling me away. It was just a frightening, frightening thing just to see them but the moment they came they made a very, very big difference to our lives and I realized that being Jewish is the worst thing i could be at this point because the Jews had the worst of of the laws that they put in. First of all we had to put a Jewish star on our house, on all the clothes we wore. There were no school for children there was everybody every single person had to be working for the Germans and they demanded certain groups of people going out they would take a group of people out into the country to do some jobs and that came that became a sort of way to get everybody to work. Okay, and... Bill: What did, what was the work your mother was forced to do? Halina: My mother's job was to knit for the mayor of the town's children, German of course. They had lists of everybody they knew, who knew what, and they knew my mother was a very good knitter so that was her job and she did, everybody was very cooperative. We all tried very hard and if there was no job for somebody they would make them clean the sidewalks but everybody did what they were told to do. Bill: And then one day of course a story that you've painfully remembered, a large number of young men and women were demanded to go work in a nearby forest. Can you tell us about that day? Halina: Yes. This time they said there was a big job they had, to be covering the young tree trunks for the winter. the winter was very harsh. and they were supposed to take burlap and cover the the the trunks of the trees. and about over 600 people went, young people mainly, and some even went you know just came as volunteers. And so they walked them out. Bill: So volunteer even more than the number that they gathered? Halina: Yes that's right that's right everybody wanted to help you as I said we were very cooperative we wanted everything to be just right. so and then we waited for them to come back and nobody came back and we didn't know what happened. Everybody was terribly nervous and I remember we were just we were just we just didn't know what was happening until late at night, my mother explained to me what happened, the man, one man managed to escape and he told us that when they came, what they found no job. There were graves, open graves with sticks over them and they were told to undress and lay on those sticks and they were shot. And as they were shot, they dropped into the grave and they didn't even want to have the trouble of having to bury them so that was that's what they did and then the guy that managed to escape was on top and when they left and the graves were full so he was one on the top ones and he managed to drag himself out he had had a one shot they missed his heart and hit his arm which was loose and they never recovered that and he told the story what happened and at this point of course everybody was understood what was happening and started looking for hiding places for the next time they would ask for somebody to come to work. Bill: In September 1942 Halina, Nazi authorities forced the remaining Jewish community in Zaleszczyki to Tłuste where you had been before and it became an open ghetto in December of 1942. Open ghettos were not surrounded by walls and Jews could come and go a little bit more freely than in a closed ghetto. Tell us what you and your mother did once you arrived in Tłuste. Halina: Well the first thing everybody was looking for hiding places and she talked to me as if I was a grown up, but she had to, you know, make me understand what was happening. she said that uh it's not the end and they expected that they will do the same here with the groups they were going to take groups and nobody was coming back so everybody was looking for hiding places preparing for the next demand for people and sure enough there was a demand again this time they said they needed more people for work in Germany and everybody hid as best as they could and now we, my mother took my sister me to a lady that she knew from before because you know we had been there before so she met some people she put me with the lady and she put me in the attic and she and my baby sister went to another lady where she paid her in advance to just keep her during the day whilst they were collecting the people that they needed yeah so uh I waited all day long we I was terrified that she was caught I didn't know what was going on the lady that kept me kept telling me that my mother was not caught but she told me some people I knew they were caught and they were all put in the square openly and they were waiting to get the right number they always you know had to have a number and as the day went on there were more people coming they found another a lot of people but my mother was not seen but you had no idea at the time where your mom was or if she was safe no I no no not at all I just had this terrible fear and and the worry that my mother might be caught and towards the evening they finally put the people on the train and then my mother did come with my sister to pick me up and she said to me she was just as traumatized as I was she said we'll never do this again because all day long she thought I was caught and she said we will never never go separately we will stay together for whatever happens whatever happens will happen to the three of us and then she told me what happened to her the lady that had her got scared in the middle of the day and throw her out just simply throw out into the into the grass, there was a grassy knoll there and she said there was one bush and she crouched under that bush for the rest of the day with my sister and she said there were airplanes flying around they were looking for stragglers by some miracle they did not spot her and that's why she said we will we will as I say stay together from now on and then everybody again went back to trying to figure out if there's a way to escape is there any way to to run away is there was no way. They tried everything. Bill: That's what led your mother and with the help of some friends to buy false documents from a priest identifying you as Catholics. Tell us how they managed to get those documents and what that meant for you. Halina: Well first of all they they said that look and they were all such good friends they helped my mother with so many things but they said look you're three females you know you can't be checked if you're Jewish you know that men can be checked women cannot and you don't look Jewish you don't speak Yiddish you're blonde, green-eyed like me perhaps we'll have a chance of passing as non-jewish and perhaps we could help you get the papers you know as as somebody else and they took my mother to a priest and he just assumed new identity cards for everybody which Bill: Which is what we see here, right? Halina: Yes, I gave them to the Museum yes. Bill: So that's actually your identification paper. Halina: That's my, yes, my birth certificate false. Bill: Falsified as a Catholic. We have a close-up, it's a little difficult to see, but the circle part - that's your name and it says right underneath that it's vertical so a little difficult to see, but it says "Roman Catholic" under your name there. They call you 'Alina." Halina: Yeah they dropped the "H" for no good reason. That is something that I've never, "Halina" is a Polish name so I don't know why they dropped the "H" but anyway, I became "Alincza" which I hated, but anyway that's just by the way. Yes. Bill: And Halina, it's one thing to get, as difficult as it was to get the paper saying that you are now somebody else, you're now a Catholic but there's a lot more to trying to pass as a Catholic than that. What did that mean for you? How did you manage to learn what you had to learn? Halina: My job was to learn my new name, my new grandparents, my new birthplace, and my mother just sat me down and taught me that there was, you know, there was no other way and I learned. And she said you know that that's what your identity is right now and I understood very well what I have to do. I very much wanted to live and I knew that if they catch us then, you know, we have no choice and we knew the children did not survive at all, so I knew what my job was to be and I became my mother's partner. Bill: When you think about that you were just 10 years of age doing that. Halina: 10 in those days, you know, you grew up very fast. And so and then she told me that we were going to try and go to a town of Jarosław which was apparently a Juden free they called it, no Jews. They apparently took all the Jews out there there are no Jews there so that's where we were going and to try and pass. Friends took us to the railway station and they said goodbye, and none of them by the way survived for very long. but they were the friends and we said goodbye we had some suitcase and some other luggage and my mother just carried my sister and me by the hand. We walked, we settled down in a carriage and we knew that this was going to take two days and for two nights to travel to Jarosław. They were all olden times it was it took much longer and we settled in and we had to change in the middle somewhere but in the meantime we just sat in and settled in and started going and that somewhere sometime I don't know I didn't pay much attention suddenly my mother quietly said to me, "you know this man that's talking to me here he is a Volksdeutsch he is a partially German they had some you know special advantages being partially German and you referred to as Bill: And you referred to Volksdeutsch so basically "German folk." Halina: Yes, and I, and he apparently pushed her very, very hard. He suspected that we were not who we said we were and my mother said she she just had to she just gave in she said and and yes I admitted that we were Jewish and at that point he said, "Well I am going to Jarosław as well, so I'm going to accompany you and when we get to Jarosław I will pass you over to the Gestapo." And so that's how he continued to travel he was very careful not to, one of the kids were always in his sight because he knew that we weren't going to run we weren't going to run but he was very careful and so he took care of us for you know un until uh until we got to Jarosław and as far as I was concerned I understood that going to the Gestapo was the end and as we got off the plane of the train in Jarosław I started pulling at my mother I suddenly realized what was happening and I said, "Mom, Mom I don't want to die." And my mother well, what could she do? But she asked them she said, "Why don't you just let her go and she's blonde again green eyed maybe she'll survive just you go you by yourself yes yes but I said no I don't know if it said yes or no even I said I'm not going without you so that was that. And so we started walking towards the Gestapo and my mother again, she never gave up, so she at one point says this, "Look, I gave you everything I have. Keep it. Why don't you just let us go and try our luck and then she added, "Why do you want us on your conscience?" and something touched him. He did have children. So he stopped and turned around and gave my mother a few złotys back and said to her, "From bad to worse." In Polish it's from "Z deszczu pod rynnę" meaning, "from rain to underneath" and there's no good translation but it's from bad to worse that he felt that we got from bad to worse because that, we had nothing you know we were just without anything, but he left us. He just walked off. Bill: And I just might add here, Halina, that your mother had already, other than the few dollars, in Polish money of course, that he gave back to your mom, he had the tickets for your luggage so you had nothing. Halina: Everything. We had nothing at all. Bill: Just the clothes on your back. Halina: My mother was carrying my sister and me by the hand and there were the three of us standing in the middle of a strange town. Just standing there, not knowing what to do. Bill: And as you said a few moments ago, this was a town that was called "Juden free." Halina: Yes. Bill: That there were no Jews there. And now you're there, in the middle of this town. Halina: Yes that's right. And, you know, but my mother as usual looks around and she's never short of trying things. So she spied a little cafe, and we walked into the cafe, and she asked them for some milk for my sister and started asking people there, other people there if there was anybody who knew of a place where we could find lodgings and somebody got up, a young man, and he said, "Yes there's a washerwoman not too far from here and she takes lodgers and I'll take you over there." And she walked us over there. So when we got there my mother said, "You know, I don't have any money but as of tomorrow I go to work and whatever I may I earn, I'll bring to you for keeping us." And she said okay. And then her sons came up and said, "Oh Mom, Mom, don't take her." You know after the four days and four nights on the train, you can imagine that we didn't look very attractive, but she said, "Oh no," she said. "This is a mother and two children. I have to take her." Bill: And we have a picture of the actual house here. Halina: Yes, yes. And that house had three separate, well, I don't call them apartments, but we were in the middle one and she took us. She gave us a bed and it was lovely. I slept at the feet and that was warm and gingerly my mother went to work the next day and I was told that I have to go to school and the lady, that the lovely landlady looked after my sister who was not well. She was very sick actually. And that's how we started our lives. Bill: What kind of work was your mother able to find at first? Halina: Home, household. She would stop somewhere in houses apparently, that's what she told me, and she was actually proud of being able to learn how to help ladies at home, you know, they needed work help. So she would stop there i've never i don't never seen one but she told me how she did it and they all needed help so they're just cleaning the house just like a cleaning lady and that meant that she also got a little food because you know the food was very short and that's how we started our lives there. And as I said then I had to go to school and and of course to church on Sunday. So the information I had was that I have to cross myself after dipping my right hand in holy water, I had to cross myself and coming in and coming out, and that's all I knew. But in the school the religious part was taught by a priest and what he gave us was a little booklet called catechism which gave us, gave me questions and answers, questions and answers. So I swallowed that book because it gave me so much information that saved me. So I was a little bit knowledgeable and that's how we started to live. Bill: Do you recall whether or not, there you are learning this catechism, I think we have a photograph, in fact, of you. Tell us what this photograph is. Halina: Well, eventually they prepared me for communion. I was at the age, I didn't expect like nine or ten I think, when there was time for communion. There were three of us and the three of us were taught, and we had a special time where we went up to the altar close, we had the lily, and we had the picture of Jesus and we were given communion. And well, I wondered you know what I should be thinking because I knew I was Jewish, but I felt that this was very important and this was beautiful religion but not mine, but it was my job to play this role. Bill: And did anybody, any of your classmates, do you remember if anybody had any suspicions that you remember? Bill: No. You played it beautifully it sounds like. Halina: No. Halina: Well, you know, they didn't expect me, you know. They didn't simply, you know, they didn't expect that, and so I was very, very careful and so was my mother. My mother was worried about my sister's hair because it was very curly and the Polish girls, straight blonde hair. Mine was quite, kind of wavy and they put it into plaits they used to call it. And they did that but my sister's what, she was so worried about that that she shaved her head altogether a couple of times, claiming that it'll make it thicker when she would grow up. Bill: And Halina, in the meantime while you're going to school and doing all that you're doing to be as careful as you can, your mother is taking other jobs. And at one point she was going to volunteer to go work in Germany. Halina: Yes. Well, she felt that she was always worried because the Polish people are very good at recognizing Jews, and she knew that the Germans always welcomed workers. So she thought if we go to Germany for work, it will be safer because the Germans are not so good at recognizing Jews. but we were turned down because of my sister. We would have had to leave my sister because she was too small because I could work and she could work but my sister was a baby so my mother would not leave my sister obviously, so we didn't go but then she never gave up so she decided that she was going to simply walk into the German military camp and ask for a job. What chutzpah, that was. Bill: Oh yeah. Halina: Yes but you know, she felt that that might be very helpful to have the Ausweis, the ID showing that she's working for the Germans. Bill: And that's what we see here her Ausweis, right? Halina: They asked for our papers. And the other thing my mother worried about, we had some weeks we didn't know whether they're going to come and kill us or not but no they did not. They didn't have computers in those days so she got the Ausweis and she worked there. Her job was to peel potatoes for the troops. That was that, but that's okay. The main thing was that she had the Ausweis and like in, there was occasion when they came into our, where we were living, at night and throw everybody out, "Raus, raus!" And they were going to check everybody. They were looking for one of the sons of our landlady who apparently was going to, they were looking for him because he killed pigs for a living which was a death sentence. So they never found him but they were looking. At the same time they throw everybody out and they were going to take them to Gestapo to check them out, and then my mother showed them the Ausweis and they say, "Oh no, you stay." So I said that saved us you know that, and gave us a little bit of assurance that you know she has an Ausweis, she works for the Germans so she has a little bit of a protection. Bill: And in that particular raid the woman, the washer woman who brought you in, she was eventually released and came back, right? Halina: Everybody came back. They were all fine but we were spared that, you know, for us to go to a Gestapo station would have been very traumatic. Bill: Absolutely. Bill: Halina, during this time you're in Jarosław. Your mother received news about your father and what had happened to him after he was sent to Siberia. Will you share with us what she heard about your father? Halina: Yes. She was very careful about being in touch with the people we left behind, but this was a very important letter that came through for us through the Red Cross and they felt that it was absolutely a must to let her know. And what it was was my father said in his letter he was safe with his sister in Palestine, which meant that he was out of Russia and that meant that he was free and fortunately was lovely news for us, but we couldn't... Bill: You couldn't do anything about it. Halina: long as we were occupied of course. Bill: In July 1944 as the Soviets were driving the Germans west, they drove them out of Jarosław, which meant that you were caught for a period between two armies. Tell us what you remember about that time? Halina: Well first of all, we had no way of knowing what was going on in the front. We didn't know who was winning, who was losing, nothing. It was death penalty to watch TV, not TV, BBC. To listen to the BBC. Bill: To listen to the radio. Halina: Or papers. Mind you, we didn't have any anyway. So one morning we woke up, my mother was ready to get up and go to work and usually very early on. This is a farm town, so there were carts going back and forth, back and forth. It was completely quiet on the road. There was nothing moving. And my mother was saying, "You know, I don't know whether I should go. I don't know what's happening." And I was standing by the window with my hand on the railing. My mother was over there with my sister and suddenly there was a tremendous bang, and a bomb split up over the house and a shrapnel hit me. And I started screaming, "Mum, Mum! My hand, my hand!" And my mother grabbed my sister and grabbed me and my hand was, you know, bleeding. She looked for help to pick me up but there was nobody and the hospital wasn't that far, we had to walk. And there was absolute silence on the street, nothing. Finally we got to the hospital. They told us that the Russians were coming in, but they were taking their time. So right at that moment, so there was nothing, was just quiet. And they immediately, unfortunately, had to cut off my left finger because it was on the skin. Today they would have put it back but not in those days. So I lost my thumb on my left hand and a half a little finger and the rest of the hand was very very bad, and they had to put it on a railing so that it wouldn't, you know, when you lose fingers, so it goes like that, so you had to keep your hand up. So I was on the rail for two months in the hospital. The nuns were the nurses, the wonderful nurses, and they were very worried about that getting infected. They said if the hand gets infected that that means that they would have to amputate my hand so that was very, very scary. In the meantime, my mother, after spending the night with us in the hospital the first night, she went back to where we were living and she found out that the roof over the kitchen fell down on the lady that was keeping us and killed her. And the whole place was in shambles, there was nowhere, nothing left that she couldn't live there. But there was a neighbor, you know, the house, we were in the middle. The neighbor on one side took her in with my sister, and so she stayed there as long as I was in the hospital. And in the meantime there was a lot of shooting going on. I remember that at night that people used to get up and go out in order not to be in the building in the hospitals in case there was a bomb falling. But nothing happened and I slept. I sleep very well. Bill: You remained in that hospital for two months. Halina: Correct, yes. Bill: How did your mom manage to be able to feed herself and your little sister during that time? Halina: She started knitting. Knitting for money and also to look for my father because as I said we knew that he was in Palestine. So she started knitting for that and for keeping us and she would come and tell me about all this. And eventually she managed to contact him and the lady who kept us was very, very nice and she kept as long as we were there she was going to keep us. I stayed in the hospital, my mother was with her. Bill: With your sister. Halina: Yes with my sister. Bill: Halina, your mother of course was very determined to get you and your sister out of Poland, and she, as you said, she was able to locate your father in Palestine. I might share that after his deportation, after his sentence to Siberia, he was able to join the Polish Armed Forces that were operating in exile there. They called it Anders' Army, is what it was known as, and it eventually came under British command, and because of that, this allowed your family to immigrate to England. Tell us about going to England and what it was like for you to adjust to this new life after the Holocaust. And here you are, I believe, in England. Halina: That's correct, that's correct. Yes it wasn't easy, but you know it, we were free. I was still petrified of the police. But we were near Liverpool in a camp. It was actually a soldier's camp they used because they needed barracks for us all. They were very nice and kind, as I said they tried to teach us English. They tried to, they did all sorts of helpful things that they gave us the rations, we could get some clothes, and altogether they were preparing us for settling in England. Not knowing where we would choose, but my father and mother decided to go to London. Most of us did go to London and you bought a house there, on the "never never" as my mother used to call it, we didn't, we were never on credit in Europe in those days, but my mother always called the credit "never never" and you bought the house and you lived on one level and the other two levels you rented out to, you know, to get the money to pay for the mortgage, that's how it went. And the first thing, of course, schools. I wanted to go to the Polish school because there was a Polish school in London but my mother said, "No, you have to learn English now. You've got to go to an English school." So I did. Bill: Halina, we have so little time left but I do have one more question for you. In the face of rising global antisemitism, please tell us why you continue to share your first-hand account of what you experienced during the Holocaust? Halina: Well as you heard a couple of comments already, it was very important to share a first witness like that because there is a lot of talk about this hadn't happened, it was, you know, we made it up. I lived through it, I'm a witness and I have to honor my mother and the six million that lost their lives. Six million included one and a half million children and when I think that, I just want to cry. So it's so important for me to let you know what happened and so you know if somebody tells you it didn't happen, you can always send them to me. I will confirm that it has and I think that there are good people, lots of good people who I think can help me and once they know the truth just to spread it and spread it so we can get on with our lives and not try to say that didn't happen. Just accept it and try to do better. That's what I would like to say. Bill: Halina, you say that so eloquently. We are profoundly grateful that you still are willing to do this, to share what you went through to help educate and inform those who don't have this knowledge that you have. Thank you. And of course, you have made us all deeply, deeply aware of what a wonderful, remarkable woman your mother was and that and that you've carried her legacy forward. So thank you for being our First Person today, Halina, so very much. Halina: Thank you very much for having me and thank you for coming. And I hope that it helps in your futures as well, and then you can carry this message to others, please. It's very, very important for our children's future.

This conversation has been edited in length for educational and classroom use. View Halina Litman Yasharoff's complete First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors program.