Helene Waldhorn

Helene Waldhorn

Born: March 19, 1922

Yasinya, Czechoslovakia

Born in her grandmother's house in a village in the eastern tip of Czechoslovakia, Helene was the oldest child of religious Jewish parents. Her father had been an officer in the Austro-Hungarian army and had met and married her mother in Yasinya during World War I. When Helene was a young child, her parents emigrated to Paris, where they made their home.

1933-39: I'm glad that my parents moved to Paris. Life here is more comfortable and more exciting than in Yasinya. My mother speaks broken French, but my younger sister and brother and I speak French fluently because we've grown up here. In my high school we also learn German. The French history lessons make me think that the French won't let themselves to be pushed around by Hitler, and so we'll be safe from the Nazis.

1940-44: I've been deported to the Ravensbrueck concentration camp for women. After Germany defeated France in 1940, I managed to avoid the deportations of 1942 by hiding my Jewish identity with false papers. With my new identity and my high-school German I got an office job with the German military stationed in the town of Alencon. I also began collaborating with the French resistance, but was denounced for this by an informant in 1944. Now I'm a political prisoner--the Germans still don't know I'm Jewish.

Helene was liberated when Soviet troops entered Ravensbrueck in April 1945. After the war she returned to France.