Lilly's Jewish parents separated before she was born. Her mother, who had moved to Brussels to operate a small workshop that made raincoats, was unable to raise her three children alone. Lilly, the youngest child, stayed in Antwerp and was raised by her grandparents in an apartment in a Jewish neighborhood near the heart of Antwerp's diamond district.
1933-39: Lilly's grandfather was a shoemaker and worked out of their apartment. Customers came to their house to have their feet measured. Because they were poor, Lilly had to go to public school instead of the private Jewish school. When her grandmother died in 1939, Lilly went to Brussels to live with her mother. After school, she helped her to assemble raincoats at the workshop. Germany attacked in the west on May 10, 1940. On Friday, May 17, 1940, the German army entered Brussels.
1940-44: Deported to Auschwitz in 1944, Lilly felt lucky to work in a camp kitchen. A transport of starving Hungarian-Jewish women and children arrived--they were to be killed the next day, so weren't fed that night. Lilly decided to sneak potatoes into their barracks. As she passed the food out in the dark, a commotion began. Suddenly, lights blazed. The barracks leader stormed in. "I could denounce you! You could be shot!" she screamed at Lilly. Then she added quietly, "Go back to your barracks." Next day, the Hungarians were gassed.
Lilly survived a forced march to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where she was liberated on April 15, 1945. She returned to Brussels before immigrating to the United States in 1946.