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Liliana Guzenfiter

Warsaw, Poland

An only child of middle-class Jewish parents, Liliana was raised in a mixed neighborhood of Christians and Jews in Poland's capital. Her father ran a jewelry business and was a reserve officer in the Polish army; her mother was a housewife. Liliana dreamed of going to the Sorbonne and becoming Poland's second female district attorney.

1933-39: The worst part of going to school was being harassed and called a "filthy Jew." I petitioned to enter a prestigious Catholic high school where I was exempted from attending Saturday classes, but like other Jewish students, I was seated separately and shoved in the halls and staircases. After a few weeks I quit, and attended a Jewish high school until it was closed by the occupying Germans in September 1939.

1940-44: After the Jews were forced into the ghetto, I became a slave laborer in the Toebbens factory. By April 1943 my family was dead and the ghetto was ablaze and in revolt. I hunkered down in my factory until the Germans came to get us on May 8. In a rage I grabbed a pair of scissors, but before I could do anything a German smashed me in the head with his rifle butt. I lifted my arm to protect myself and he smashed me again and again, knocking me out. When I woke up the next day I was in a dark, crowded cattle car.

Liliana survived as a slave laborer in the Majdanek and Skarzysko-Kamienna camps before being liberated in Czestochowa on January 18, 1945. She emigrated to America in 1950.


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