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Herbst family papers

Document | Not Digitized | Accession Number: 2003.23.1

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    The papers consist of nine photographs depicting the experiences of the Herbst family in the Ansbach displaced persons camp, two photographs depicting the experiences of the Herbst family before World War II, two identification cards issued to Sabina Herbst [donor's mother] and Ziunia Herbst [donor] in Ansbach, three documents relating to Sabina and Ziunia Herbst's emigration to the United States in 1948, and two letters (with envelopes) written to Sabina Herbst while she was living in New York, N.Y.
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Myra Genn
    Collection Creator
    Myra Genn
    Myra Genn (b. Ziunia Herbst) was born on June 1, 1938, in Trembowla, Poland (now Terebovlia, Ukraine). Her father, Chaim David Herbst, who was born in 1908, was a Zionist activist and educator. Along with Dawid Turkel, he organized a Hebrew language elementary school in Trembowla. Myra's mother, Sabina Sizes Herbst, was born in 1903. Chaim and Sabina married in 1936 and owned a leather goods store in town.

    The Germans invaded Trembowla after the breaking of the Nazi-Soviet pact in June 1941. Chaim Herbst was murdered by the Germans during this period. Sabina and her daughter were subsequently forced into the Trembowla ghetto. By May 1943, the ghetto population had dwindled down to 1800 residents, and it was clear that the Germans would soon liquidate the ghetto. Sabina tried to find a hiding place for her and her child, but was unsuccessful. Soon after, the Nazis started an "aktion." Sabina hid during the massive liquidation with some of her relatives in a bunker called. Many of those hiding in the bunker were captured and either killed or deported. Among them were Sabina's older brother and his two children (Fania's family). Fortunately, the SS did not see Sabina, her child, or two of her sisters-in-law. After her narrow escape, Sabina left Ziunia with her sister-in-law, Fania Cizes. While walking the streets of the liquidated ghetto alone, she was almost caught by the Gestapo and killed.

    Immediately after this incident, Sabina, Fania, and Ziunia left the ghetto in search of shelter. They headed to Podhajczyki, Poland, where the Rajski family lived on their farm. Wincenty Rajski had been a customer in the Herbst leather goods store. He had a wife, Stefania, and two little girls, and they were devout Catholics. Mr. Rajski was also active in the Polish underground. After much pleading with the Rajski family, Sabina, Fania, and Ziunia were given shelter in an underground cave. The farmer brought them tea and a bowl of food several times a week. The conditions underground were difficult since there was no light and little air. Mr. Rajski made holes in the roof of the hiding place to let in light and air, but during a severe storm, the cavern quickly became flooded. It became impossible to remain there. Again, Sabina pleaded with the Rajskis for some sort of hiding place and was given further assistance by the Rajskis. Sabina, Fania, and Ziunia were placed in the thatched attic of the barn on the Rajski property. Mr. Rajski had built a double wall in the attic, enclosing a space approximately 7 feet long by 3 feet wide, where the family of three could hide in times of particular danger. The space was so small that one could only sn or lie down but not stand. They always had to talk in whispers so that they would not be heard. When Mr. Rajski heard that the Nazis were patrolling the area with their bloodhounds, he placed rabbits in the attic in order to disguise the human scent. Ziunia played with the rabbns and made sure that the rabbits were fed and treated well.

    Sabina, Fania, and Ziunia lived on a diet of hot water in the morning and evening, a small loaf of bread approximately twice a week, and a little soup for lunch. At times there was additional moldy bread and the occasional fresh vegetable. The women and the young girl remained hidden in the attic for ten months until the Soviets liberated the area in 1944. Sabina took Ziunia towards the Soviet border in order to insure their safety until VE day in 1945.

    While seeking shelter in Podwoloczyska, Ukraine, Sabina and her daughter became ill with typhoid and were taken to a nearby hospital. After several weeks, they were released and eventually reunited with Fania and another sister-in-law, Henia, and her child in their hometown of Trembowla. It was there that Ziunia first attended school at the age of six. Through Bricha, the mother and daughter were brought into the American zone and placed in the Ansbach DP camp in Germany. In 1948 they immigrated to the United States where Sabina reunited with her only surviving brother and his family.

    Myra and her mother requested that Yad Vashem honor Wincenty and Stefania Rajski as Righteous Among the Nations. They had lost touch with the Rajski family during the time of political upheaval in Poland. Yad Vashem was able to locate the two Rajski daughters and their brother who was born after World War II. There was a reunion in New York in 1996. Wincenty and Stefania Rajski were honored posthumously as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and given the "Courage to Care" award by the Hidden Child Foundation. The three Rajski children accepted the award on behalf of their parents. Myra continues to be in touch with the Rajski children. Her mother died in 1999 at the age of 96.

    Physical Details

    Polish English German
    1 folder

    Rights & Restrictions

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    Conditions on Use
    Material(s) in this collection may be protected by copyright and/or related rights. You do not require further permission from the Museum to use this material. The user is solely responsible for making a determination as to if and how the material may be used.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The papers were donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by Myra Genn.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 14:05:24
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