Oral History

Irene Hizme describes being a poster child for Rescue Children

Irene and Rene were born Renate and Rene Guttmann. The family moved to Prague shortly after the twins' birth, where they were living when the Germans occupied Bohemia and Moravia in March 1939. A few months later, uniformed Germans arrested their father. Decades later, Irene and Rene learned that he was killed at the Auschwitz camp in December 1941. Irene, Rene, and their mother were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto, and later to the Auschwitz camp. At Auschwitz, the twins were separated and subjected to medical experiments. Irene and Rene remained separated for some time after their liberation from Auschwitz. The group Rescue Children brought Irene to the United States in 1947, where she was reunited with Rene in 1950.


IRENE: I come to the States and I get wined and dined. We go to the White House. We visit President Truman and "Life"--yeah, listen, you've got a celebrity sitting next to you. And, and we do a...
QUESTION: You were kind of like a poster child?
IRENE: Exactly right. I was poster child. I had these long curls. I'm convinced to this day that's why he chose--well, he says he just fell in love with me, he says, but I was the only child with long hair, that's the truth [laughs]. And so I was kind of the poster child. We were wined and dined, we went to dinners, we were on TV, early TV, we were on radio, and "Life" magazine did a full spread and a cover story and, yes, they did raise thousands of dollars. In the meantime, I was staying at Mr. Tenzer's [ph] home. And, well, no, at the beginning we stayed at a posh hotel. Wait a minute, we stayed in a hotel in New York City, and I remember getting served white bread for the first time, and cornflake cereal, which I detest to this day, because--"What is this? White bread?" I didn't, I--and the photographers were taking pictures, so they wanted us to look all excited about this and I, so I looked excited, but I said, "I'm not eating this."


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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