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

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

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

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