Winter, 78, told a standing-room-only crowd of her experiences surviving under a false identity during the Holocaust. She read selections from her book, “Trains: A Memoir of a Hidden Childhood During and After the World War II.”
A blonde Jewish woman took Winter, then 8, away from her family to save her from an almost certain death. Winter’s parents, grandparents and brother were murdered at the Treblinka extermination camp.
“My life was saved through the transmitting of two strangers on a train,” Winter said. “My Jewish rescuer was a woman of about 20. She took pity on my scared mother and took me away. She was herself in great danger and didn’t have a place to stay. I am the only one in my family who survived the Holocaust.”
Winter said she thinks she repressed many of the details of leaving her family, but she vividly remembers her father’s instructions.
“On parting, my father told me never to admit I’m Jewish,” she recalled. “He showed me how to make the sign of the cross and he gave me a prayer to memorize.
He told me never to admit my name was Miriam.”
The Jewish rescuer met a Polish woman on a train. The Polish woman offered to take young Miriam, who then was called “Maria.”
Winter’s presentation was the first of four in a series scheduled in conjunction with the national traveling exhibit, “In a Nutshell: The Worlds of Maurice Sendak,” which is on display at the library through Feb. 24. Heartland Klezmorim will perform traditional Klezmer music at 3 p.m. Sunday as the second installment in the series.
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