Oral History Interview with Rita Harmelin

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).

Date: 04/26/1992
Interviewer: Edith Millman
Interviewee: Rita Harmelin
Language: English
Subject: Forced labor.
Hiding places--Ukraine--Boryslav.
Holocaust survivors--Psychology.
Holocaust survivors.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Personal narratives.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)--Psychological aspects.
World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Ukraine.
World War, 1939-1945--Conscript labor--Ukraine.
World War, 1939-1945--Deportations from Ukraine.
World War, 1939-1945--Jews--Rescue--Ukraine.
World War, 1939-1945--Underground movements--Poland.
Women--Personal narratives.
Location: Bucharest, Romania
Boryslav, Ukraine
Borysław Ghetto
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