Survivor's story: 'I was resourceful - I wanted to live'

By Sandy Rashty, January 24, 2013
Janine Webber

Janine Webber

Janine Webber, 80, fled her home in (then) Poland with one suitcase after the German army occupied her native Lwow in 1941. Taking refuge in a house just outside the town, she, her brother and mother hid in a hole beneath a wardrobe as “screaming” German forces entered and shot her father. Her mother died of typhus shortly afterwards. When she was nine, Ms Webber and her seven-year-old brother lived with a non-Jewish family, but were betrayed. She fled — her brother was killed by an SS officer. Never revealing her Jewish identity, she worked as a shepherdess, stayed in a convent and served as a maid before making her way to Paris six months after the war. She moved to the UK in 1956

“I always knew that they were killing Jews, so I never told anyone I was Jewish,” she recalls.

“After they shot my father, my uncle paid a family to look after my brother and me in the countryside. They were peasants. But the money must have run out, because the family brought over an SS soldier. I think he was German but he never spoke to me and I was afraid to look at his face. I noticed his boots and that he was armed. The family called me out of my hiding place and told me to start walking in front of him. I thought he would shoot me, but he didn’t, so I just kept walking.” Her brother Tunio was shot dead, but she kept walking until finding temporary refuge with a woman.

“I went home with her but was sent away when she found out I was Jewish. It was too risky for her to keep me. I didn’t tell her I was Jewish, I think she was told by the family who betrayed my brother and me. I knew I must never tell anyone I was Jewish.”

She remembers herself as “obviously resourceful. Maybe I wanted to live. People also warmed to me. I was a very sweet child and people believed what I said. I always wanted to improve my situation.”

Last updated: 2:22pm, January 24 2013