The Real Life Story of a Holocaust Survivor
This week we were privileged to welcome Janine Webber, an 84 year old Holocaust survivor, to come and speak to us at RNC (Royal National College for the Blind). Janine gave us an emotional account of her traumatic experiences from surviving the Holocaust of the Second World War, where 6 million people were killed.
RNC student Nathan Edge summed up Janine’s talk “I really do feel that the word inspiration is used way too often these days however today we had the pleasure of hearing the story of an actual survivor of the holocaust. Janine Webber, an 84 year old Jewish lady came in to the college today to share her story of what it was like living in Poland in a Jewish family during the second world war and how she managed to evade capture as a young girl, however witnessed the majority of her family killed by the Nazis. It’s unbelievable to hear the conditions millions of people had to live in and what the majority were put through however somehow this lady still manages to live her life with immense positivity and is able to openly share her story with thousands of others. It really does make you appreciate what we have these days.”
Janine explained that for 50 years she was frightened to speak up about what her experiences during the war, “In the children’s homes we never talked about the war as people thought that if you didn’t talk about it you would forget. But one never forgets that fear, that if people found out you were Jewish you would be killed.” About 10 years ago Janine visited a therapist, who advised her to talk about her experiences and in time, Janine began delivering talks to schools and colleges on behalf of the Holocaust Education Trust, “I feel it’s my duty to tell people what happened to my family and the town where I lived. If I didn’t tell my story then no one would know what really happened; the killing of innocent people. I deliver talks to schools and colleges and it amazes me how interested they are. I like to share my photos and feel that it’s a miracle that I managed to save them after all of these years.”
We were ever so grateful to Janine for sharing such personal memories and there were a mixture of happy times with family to some torturous images from the concentration camps. At the end of a very moving talk, Janine happily answered questions from students and even granted a simple request from one student for a hug (that was not the first student wanted to hug Janine that day)! Before Janine left there were lots of tears as students were overcome with emotion and lined up to personally thank Janine before she left.
RNC student Maisy McAdam was overwhelmed by the talk and said “It’s such a courageous thing for Janine to share her story and listening to all the things she experienced in such detail really puts things into perspective.” RNC student Laura added “This was incredibly moving and this lady’s bravery has left me stunned and emotional – her story will stay with me for a long time.”
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Article written by Bik Lee, Digital Media Officer at RNC
About Janine Webber
Janine was born in Lwow, Poland in 1932. Persecution of Jews in Lwow started very quickly after its German occupation in 1941. Janine and her family were forced to move to an area on the outside of town in preparation for the establishment of a ghetto. On hearing that there would be a Nazi raid one day, Janine, her mother, and her brother hid in a hole that had been dug under the wardrobe. The Nazis discovered the other members of her family and her father was shot and he and her brother were deported to a concentration camp.
Janine was moved to the ghetto and her uncle was able to find her a non-Jewish family outside of the ghetto who were prepared to hide her. She then went to live with another family with her brother but one day the Polish daughter of the family brought home an SS officer so she was forced to flee. Her brother was killed by the SS officer. She managed to find work as a shepherdess where she remained until the family she was living with learnt of her Jewish identity.
Janine’s aunt had given her the name and address of a Polish man, Edek who was the caretaker of a convent in Lwow and she went to him and hid in the attic of a building where she was reunited with her aunt, uncle and 12 other Jews in hiding. Janine’s aunt managed to obtain fake papers for her and she was taken to a convent.
6 months after the end of the war, Janine’s aunt returned for her. Together, they left for Paris. In 1956, Janine came to England to improve her English where she met and married her husband. Today, Janine still lives in London and regularly shares her testimony with schoolchildren.