Oral History

Liny Pajgin Yollick describes how hiding their Jewish identity saved her family's life in Nice, France

In May 1940, the Germans occupied the Netherlands. In 1942, it took Liny, her mother, and her sister six months to escape to southern France. They pretended to be Protestant, obtained visas to travel through Spain and Portugal, and were on one of the last trains to cross into Spain after the Germans took over southern France. They boarded a Portuguese ship bound for Dutch Guiana (Suriname). Liny was placed in a refugee camp, and then worked in the Dutch embassy in Washington D.C. She eventually settled in Texas.


We made it to Nice. We did go to the consul, to the Dutch consul, and asked for papers. The Dutch consul said, "What is your religion?" My mother told him, "We are Protestants." My...so the consul said, "Then why did you leave?" And my mother made up a wonderful story that her daughter, who was eighteen years old, namely I...um...was followed by a German soldier...soldier, and that she feared for my safety and that's why we left. We changed our name from Pajgin to Pogin because my older sister, who had preceded us to Nice, had told the Dutch consul that she was Jewish, and so we had to change our name a little bit. Our being Protestant, so-called Protestant, saved our life in the southern part of France because [head of state Philippe] Petain had made an arrangement with Hitler to send all the Jewish refugees back to occupied territory. They came to search our room in the hotel where we stayed every single night for Jews. I remember them looking under the beds. They looked in the cupboards. They looked everywhere. And this went on every single night. When they saw that our papers had "Protestant," they excused themselves for waking us up. As long as I live, I will never forget the screams of the Jewish people who were taken out of their rooms. This hotel was a small hotel; it had a circular...uh...stairway in the middle of the hotel, so I don't remember that there was a elevator, but all these people were taken down from their rooms on that circular stairway, which passed our room. The screams of those people I will never forget, as long as I live.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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