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Finding Hope: Halina Zimm's Story of Survival and Resilience from Holocaust to Virginia

Her Story

Halina Drexler (later Zimm) grew up in Lodz, Poland, with her parents and two sisters, Helen and Nana. In Poland life was pleasant until Nazis invaded the country in 1939. The invasion closed schools and Jews were forced to wear the Yellow Star. Recognizing the eminent danger to his family, Halina’s father Solomon Drexler and his family evacuated Lodz and made their way to Zarnow. En route Nazis stopped the Drexler family, stealing almost everything that they had with them.

In Zarnow, rumors circulated about the existence of concentration camps. Few people believed the stories; however Halina’s father did. He obtained two forged birth certificates for Halina and Helen. In November, 1940, Halina said goodbye to her parents, fearing then she would never see them again. Two weeks later, the Nazis arrived and deported the Jews of Zarnow.

Halina escaped to Warsaw where, in a train station, searched for someone to help her. Halina met a woman who took her in but neighbors began asking questions, so Halina knew she needed to leave. Eventually, Halina found employment as a housekeeper for a young couple who lived directly across the street from the Warsaw Ghetto.

Halina lived many terrifying moments. On one visit to a market, she saw a woman she had known in Lodz. That woman denounced her to the police. Shortly thereafter, two Nazis arrived at the apartment and accused Halina of being a Jew. Halina also is able to recall the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Standing outside, she could hear people weeping and crying as the Nazis dynamited buildings where Jews were hiding.

Eventually liberated by the Russians, she met her future husband Alan Zimm in 1945. With marriage came immigration to the United States where Halina and Alan established new lives, raised a family and became active members in the community. Halina often speaks to groups of students and teachers inspiring all who hear her.

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