My message is tolerance… To accept people and not to persecute them.

- Janine Webber, quoted in EDEK (2018)

Janine Webber was born in 1932 in Lwów, Poland. In 1939 Lwów was occupied by the Soviet Army, however, following the invasion of the USSR in June 1941, Lwów came under the authority of the Nazis. Under German rule the persecution of the Jews started immediately, and Janine and her family had to move out of their home. They moved into a house on the outside of the city shared with three other families. Janine’s family were only permitted to bring one suitcase and had to share one small room in the house.

Jewish civilians in this area were also subject to frequent German raids on houses. In an attempt to stay safe, Janine’s family decided to dig a hiding place underneath a wardrobe in their small room. But this hiding place was only big enough for Janine, her mother and her brother. When the day came that their house was raided by the German authorities, Janine’s mother took her children into the hiding place. During the raid Janine’s father was shot, and her grandmother was taken away. She never saw her again.

Shortly after this, the family were forced to move into the ghetto. The living conditions were appalling and soon after arrival her mother contracted typhus and died. She was 29 years old. More members of Janine’s family began to contract the endemic diseases that were rife in the ghetto and died. Other members of the family were sent to Bełżec extermination camp, where they were murdered upon arrival.

As things became more desperate for her family, Janine’s uncle managed to find a farmer that was willing to hide Janine and her aunt, Rouja. But this situation soon took a turn for the worse when the farmer hiding them began to harass her aunt. Rouja was able to escape, but Janine was kept locked away.

Eventually the farmer released Janine and she was sent to another farming family, this time with her brother, Tunio. However, a few months after Janine and Tunio arrived the family’s daughter brought an SS man to the farm. Tunio was shot and Janine narrowly escaped with her life.

Janine then managed to hide her Jewish identity from a Polish family, and work for them as shepherdess. It was not long before the family discovered Janine was Jewish and they gave her a train ticket to go back to Lwów. Before she was separated from her aunt, Janine was given the name and address of a caretaker who worked in a convent in Lwów. This man’s name was Edek. Edek hid Janine in the attic of a building where she was reunited with her aunt and uncle who were also hiding with 12 other Jews.

The group were moved to an underground bunker and stayed there for a year. The bunker was horribly cramped, and Janine’s aunt and uncle managed to obtain false papers for her. Under a new identity Janine went to live in a convent in Kraków, and from there to live with a priest. Eventually Janine went to work as a maid for an elderly couple in Kraków. This is where she stayed until the city was liberated in early 1945. Janine was once again reunited with her aunt, who had also survived, six months after liberation.

Janine Webber has been a long-term friend and supporter of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum. She continues to tell her story to this day, detailing the horrors she endured in her childhood. Her testimony plays an essential role in the education of the Holocaust to school children and adults and continues to provide a poignant truth about her story of loss and survival.