Bella was born on September 9, 1922 in Lodz, Poland. Her father was an insurance salesman. Bella had one younger sister, Irene. She attended a public gymnasium until Germany occupied Lodz in 1939. At that time, Bella and her father went to the Soviet-occupied part of Poland, planning to bring her mother and sister from Lodz but Germany sealed the border. She was separated from her father and has not seen nor heard from him since. In 1941, Nazi Germany occupied all of Poland and Bella ended up in the Oszmiany ghetto where she worked for the ghetto’s Nazi commandant. Meanwhile, her mother and sister were interned in the Lodz ghetto.
Bella escaped from the Oszmiany ghetto during its liquidation and made her way to the ghetto in Vilna. The Vilna ghetto was liquidated in 1943 and Bella was sent with about 300 women to the Kaiserwald concentration camp near Riga, Latvia. In Kaiserwald, Bella worked in the military clothing warehouse operated by the Germans. There, she met Bubi (Isaac) Mischkinsky, a former Riga architect in charge of construction work in the camp. They were married in the camp in a simple, informal ceremony officiated by a Jewish inmate working in the camp office.
In 1944, as the Russian army advanced toward Riga, the Kaiserwald concentration camp was liquidated and its surviving inmates, including Bella and Bubi, were shipped by boat and barges to the Stutthof concentration camp near Danzig. Shortly afterwards, both were sent to a slave labor camp in Magdeburg, Germany to work in a munitions factory making artillery shells.
After liberation in April 1945, Bella went to Zeilsheim and later worked for the HIAS office in Frankfurt. Bella’s mother and her sister Irene survived the Lodz ghetto. They located Bella in Germany and she managed to bring her mother to Germany from Lodz. Bella and her remaining family members immigrated to the United States in 1946.