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Helen Lebowitz

Volosyanka, Czechoslovakia

Helen was one of seven children born to a Jewish family in Volosyanka, a town in Trans-Carpathian Ruthenia. Nestled in the Carpathian mountains, Volosyanka was a small town with a sizable Jewish community. Jewish life revolved around the town's synagogue. Helen grew up in a close-knit family; many relatives lived nearby. Her father owned a shoe store in the town.

1933-39: When I was 11 years old, Hungary occupied the Transcarpathian region. At once, Jews were prohibited from holding government positions, and beaten and arrested, often for no reason. The Hungarians closed our synagogue and prevented us from attending school. Worshiping was done secretly because any Jewish gathering was illegal. My grandfather, fearing for the safety of the synagogue's Torah scroll, secretly brought it home.

1940-44: In 1944 the Germans occupied our town. We were ordered to wear a Jewish star, rounded up and sent to the Uzghorod ghetto. There, the Germans discovered the scroll my grandfather was hiding. They took him to the center of the ghetto, and after beating him, cut off his long white beard. A week later, my family was deported to Auschwitz. My grandfather was beaten and thrown in a truck because he wouldn't give up his Torah scroll. I was assigned to a forced-labor brigade in a Nazi munitions factory in a different camp.

Toward the end of the war Helen was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where she was liberated on April 15, 1945. She emigrated to the United States in 1946.

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