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Oral history interview with Rita Harmelin

Oral History | Digitized | Accession Number: 1997.A.0441.39 | RG Number: RG-50.462.0039

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    Oral history interview with Rita Harmelin


    Interview Summary
    Rita Harmelin (née Brauner), born June 17, 1925 in Bucharest, Romania, describes her Polish-born parents, who returned to Poland in 1931; the family moving to the oil town Boryslaw (now Boryslav, Ukraine); her secular and religious education and interactions with local Poles and Ukrainians; life under the Russian occupation beginning in September 1939; the German invasion of Boryslaw in June 1941; the efforts of local Ukrainians to save Jews; the successive waves of pogroms encouraged by Germans and carried out by local Poles and Ukrainians; a Jewish quarter or ghetto that was established in Boryslaw; the periodic roundups leading to deportation; how Berthold Beitz, a director in the local petrol industry, and Mr. Siegemund rescued many Jews, including Rita from the deportations several times; the gradual increase in restrictions; many Jews working in the Boryslaw petrol industry; the establishment of a forced labor camp in 1943 for the Jewish workers guarded by Ukrainian volunteers; escape attempts by workers; going into hiding with her future husband, Rolek, and 11 others in the home of a local Ukrainian from March to August 7, 1944 when Russian troops arrived and re-occupied Boryslaw; the deportation of her parents before they could accept an offer to hide in a Polish woman's house; her mother’s death in Auschwitz and her father’s survival; how the Jews from Boryslaw being transported to Płaszów, Poland but the final transport in July 1944 went directly to Auschwitz; why resistance was difficult; the attitude of the Polish underground (Armia Krajowa) and most Ukrainians toward Jews; her post-war experiences; returning to Poland; searching for and reuniting with her father in Austria in 1945; smuggling herself in and out of Poland; immigrating with her father to Australia on January 9, 1949 and reuniting with her husband, whom she had married in Austria; her guilt as a survivor and telling her children about her past; life as a Jew in Australia; and examples of acts of humanity and compassion by individual non-Jews (Polish, Ukrainian, and German).
    Rita B. Harmelin
    interview:  1992 April 24
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Gratz College Holocaust Oral History Archive

    Physical Details

    3 sound cassettes (60 min.).

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    Administrative Notes

    The Gratz College Holocaust Oral History Archive conducted the interview with Ruth (Rita) Harmelin in Philadelphia, Pa., on April 24, 1992. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum received the tapes of the interview from Gratz College on September 22, 1998.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 08:36:08
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