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Oral history interview with Rita Harmelin

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

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 Plaszow, 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).

Interviewee
Rita B. Harmelin
Date
1992 April 24  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
3 sound cassettes (60 min.).
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, gift of the Holocaust Oral History Archive of Gratz College
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Record last modified: 2018-01-31 11:33:50
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn508659