Holocaust Survivors Share Their Memories of Destroyed Childhoods

April 30, 2019

In 2013, FRONTLINE released Never Forget to Lie, an autobiographical film from Emmy award-winning director and Holocaust survivor Marian Marzynski. In the documentary, Marzynski returned to Poland to probe his feelings about his homeland, the Catholic church and an identity fractured by the traumas of the Warsaw ghetto. At its peak, more than 400,000 Jews were crammed into the ghetto — no more than 20,000 of them survived the Holocaust. Marzynski was one of them.

In the film, Marzynski offers heart-wrenching observations about how the Holocaust has shaped his life. But he also spoke to other survivors, children at the time of the Holocaust, many who lived in the Warsaw ghetto. We have collected some of the testimonies here. Some are written, some are in print — but all of them paint a stark picture of survival in the face of unthinkable pain.

For more stories, watch Never Forget to Lie.

Marian Marzynski

Marian Marzynski: Returning to My Warsaw Story

Marian Marzynski is the filmmaker behind Never Forget to Lie

“I was 5-years-old, spending my days in the attic of a woodworking shop my father was running in the ghetto. To this day I smell fresh wood from that attic. At the end of each day, when German soldiers were returning to their barracks, my parents carried me to bed in our tiny room above the shop. The German owner of the factory told my father that his work permit, temporarily protecting him from deportation, would no longer cover his family. My parents decided to smuggle me through the ghetto wall to the Christian side of Warsaw.” Read more.

Krystyna Budnicka

Krystyna Budnicka is a retired teacher who speaks about the Holocaust at schools in her free time. 

“I can’t cry. I don’t have tears. A man should know how to cry when it’s needed, when it hurts the heart or the soul. But I don’t.” Watch the full story above.

Maja Hrabowska

Maja Hrabowska lives in New York City. After growing up in the Warsaw ghetto, she survived the 9/11 terrorist attack. 

“The past is always with me. It has long, cold fingers, and catches me unprepared, at night mostly, when I wake up in sweat. I’m part of the generation that survived the Holocaust — the total war on Jews, and particularly on Jewish children. We were hated, the first to suffer, the first to perish. I blamed myself. What did I do to deserve it?” Read more. 

Lillian Boraks-Nemetz

Lillian Boraks-Nemetz: My Holocaust Survival

Lillian Boraks-Nemetz is the author of The Old Brown Suitcase and several other novels. 

“I don’t feel brave. My knees are bloody, and my shoulder hurts, but I still hang on to my suitcase. I feel like an animal who is being punished for something. But what did I do? They drive us along in a pony – like trot. We cower beneath the menacing batons and guns, shoulders hunched over.” Read more, and watch the full story above.

Felicja Bryn

Felicja Bryn is the author of the book Never Forget to Lie.

“When my father saw me for the last time, he didn’t use the word ‘Jew.’ He only said, ‘Everything will be fine. Lie and believe in Jesus.'” Watch the full story above. 

Ed Herman

Ed Herman: My Warsaw Ghetto Memories

Ed Herman is an economist. 

“I saw the guard slaughter a pig to make sausages. If no one would have come to take me to another location, for his own protection, the guard would have most likely killed me like he did the pig.” Read more. 

Wiktoria Sliwowska

Wiktoria Sliwowska is a professor of history. 

“I lie there and see nothing, but hear everything…at the end, I hear a shot. Someone falls. How did I know it was my mother?” Watch the full story above.

Abby Johnston, Digital Editor, Frontline



In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

blog comments powered by Disqus

More Stories

In Wake of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Death, McConnell Reverses Course on Supreme Court Vacancy; Vows Vote on Nominee
It’s a markedly different approach than he took in the previous presidential election year of 2016, when a different Supreme Court justice died more than eight months before voters went to the polls.
September 19, 2020
Handling of Public Protests a 'Stress Test' for Police Reform
Violent outbursts have marked the period of unrest since George Floyd died May 25, after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pinned the 46-year-old Black man to the ground by his neck. In many cases, police have responded with force to disperse protesters, captured on cameras nationwide — including in Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle and Portland, all cities that were already under court-enforced agreements to reform their police departments. Independent monitors overseeing those agreements say it's possible police could find themselves out of compliance for how they've responded to the recent unrest.
September 18, 2020
Amid George Floyd Protests, a Critical Question: Can the Feds Fix American Policing?
As millions of people rallied in the streets this summer demanding an end to police violence, more than a dozen cities were quietly working on their own police reform process — in conference rooms and court hearings.  
September 16, 2020
A Newark Officer Was Filmed Punching Someone. Jelani Cobb Asked a Police Union Head If It Was Justified.
Their resulting conversation in the new FRONTLINE documentary “Policing the Police 2020” illustrates the debate over use of force in policing: what’s legal, what’s justified and whether those definitions should change.
September 15, 2020