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Holocaust Memorial Day

Presented by Lansons Diversity Group with Holocaust Survivor, Janine Webber BEM

online
12:30, 31 January 2022

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place every year on Wednesday 27th January to commemorate the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust, alongside the millions of other people killed under Nazi Persecution and in genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The 27th January marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

This year, the Lansons Diversity Group will be hosting a very special and rare opportunity to hear from Janine Webber BEM, a survivor of the holocaust.

Janine Webber BEM

Janine was born in Lwów in Poland (now L'viv, Ukraine) in 1932. Following the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Lwów was occupied by the Red Army in 1939 and remained under Soviet rule until June 1941 when Germany invaded the USSR. Persecution of the Jews of Lwów began immediately, and thousands of people were murdered within weeks of the invasion by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators.

Janine and her family soon had to leave their apartment and move into an area on the edge of the city, in preparation for the establishment of a ghetto. They were permitted to take only one suitcase and were allocated a small room in a house for the whole family to live in. The house was shared with the family of Janine’s aunt as well as two other families. In addition to the appalling living conditions, they had to live with the fear of frequent German raids. Janine’s parents therefore dug a hiding place under a wardrobe; this was sufficient to protect Janine, her brother and her mother but there was not enough room for the other members of her family – Janine’s father was shot and she never saw her grandmother again.

Eventually, Janine and the other surviving members of her family were forced into the ghetto. Soon after arriving in the ghetto, her mother fell seriously ill with typhus and died aged just 29. With other members of Janine’s extended family falling victim to disease or deportation to Bełżec death camp, her uncle found a Polish farmer wiling to hide Janine and her aunt Rouja. However, this proved to be the start of a series of new ordeals. Rouja was forced to run away after the farmer harassed her whilst Janine was kept locked away until the farmer told her to leave. Janine’s uncle then found another farming family to hide her and her brother Tunio, but after a few months the family’s daughter brought an SS man to the farm; she narrowly escaped but Tunio was shot. Wandering the countryside, Janine found work as a shepherdess until the Polish family she was living with learnt of her Jewish identity. Fearing for their own safety, they bought Janine a train ticket to return to Lwów.

Janine’s aunt Rouja had given her the name and address of a Polish man, Edek, the caretaker of a convent in Lwów, who she should contact in the case of an emergency. At last, Janine found someone who could be trusted and Edek hid her in the attic of a building, where she was reunited with Rouja, an uncle and 12 other Jews in hiding. As the situation became more dangerous, the group was moved to an underground bunker, where they stayed for nearly a year. However, conditions in the cramped bunker were poor so Rouja arranged for Janine to obtain false papers. She had to learn all of the details of her new identity, which was that of a Polish girl who came from a village whose inhabitants had been killed by Ukrainian nationalists. Janine was then sent to a convent in Kraków, from where she was taken with three other girls to live with a priest. She finally moved to live with an elderly couple, where she worked as a maid until Kraków was liberated in early 1945.

Six months after the end of the war, Janine’s aunt Rouja returned for her. She placed Janine in a children’s home, but fearing antisemitism in Poland, they decided to leave for Paris.

In 1956, Janine came to the UK to improve her English, where she met and married her husband. They had two sons and two grandsons. Today, Janine lives in London and regularly shares her testimony with schools.

Holocaust Memorial Day Event by Lansons London New York 1200x900

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Events Speakers

Janine Webber BEM 1 Photographer Credit Tanya Harris

Janine Webber BEM

Holocaust Survivor

Janine was born in Lwów in Poland (now L'viv, Ukraine) in 1932. Following the Nazi-Soviet Pact, Lwów was occupied by the Red Army in 1939 and remained under Soviet rule until June 1941 when Germany invaded the USSR. Persecution of the Jews of Lwów began immediately, and thousands of people were murdered within weeks of the invasion by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators.

Mitchell cohen 7600

Mitchell Cohen

Associate Director

Mitchell chairs Lansons Diversity Group and leads on many of our Public Affairs events.