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Paul Oppenheimer
Regina Franks (née Sherer)
Kay Fyne (née Clein)
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Regina Franks (née Sherer)

Regina was born on July 15 1926 in Hrubieszow in Poland. She was Jewish. Her father Zvi Sherer was a civil engineer. Her mother was called Rosalin. Regina’s maternal grandfather – Grandfather Shlomo lived next door Regina’s parents were not Polish. Rosalin’ family had come from Russia. Her father's family came originally from Austria. By the age of 13 Regina was a fluent Polish speaker and able to hold a conversation in German and Russian too. Regina thinks that this is one of the reasons how she survived during the Holocaust.

Early life

Regina had three sisters and one brother. Helena, born in 1928, Sasha, her brother in 1930 and Bracha in 1934. Theirs was not a typically Jewish looking family. Three out of the four children were blond. Helena and Sasha had blue eyes. With their Nordic colouring either of them could have been role models for Hitler's Aryan ideal. Only Bracha and Regina had brown eyes and dark hair. At an early age Regina encountered discrimination. She was not allowed to go the same school as her Catholic friends because Polish Jews were not given the same freedom of choice as Polish Catholics.

Schooldays

Up until she was 11 years old, Regina had a normal Jewish upbringing. They went to the synagogue, observed all the Jewish festivals and conformed with the main dietary requirements. There were no Jewish schools in Poland so she went to school with Polish and Ukrainian Catholics, Russian Orthodox children and the other Jewish children. The real trouble in school came after religion lessons. The children were separated into three different groups, Catholics, Russian Orthodox and Jews. After each lesson the Catholics would appear and begin to kick and spit at the Jewish children. They were taught to hate the Jews by their priest.

1938: Trouble starts

Trouble started in 1938. There was a boycott of Jewish shops, and many shops were forced to shut. Attacks on Jewish citizens began to take place. Matters grew worse when Jewish refugees from Germany came to the town. They were refused help. There had been antisemetism for centuries in Eastern Europe, Poland, Lithuania, and the Ukraine in particular.

1939: Poland Invaded

On September 1 1939, Germany invaded Poland. Regina’s father was shot. Her family home was confiscated and they had to live in a ghetto. Schools were shut down and food became scarce Being the eldest child, Regina was responsible for food.

In 1940, as Regina was queuing for food, she was arrested and was forced to work for the Nazis. She was 14 years old.

In June 1942 Regina’s mother sisters and brother were deported to Belzec extermination camp. They were murdered.

The Journey to Auschwitz, July 1942 – February 1943

In June 1942 Regina was deported. She was taken to Mannheim where she worked in a munitions factory. Regina changed her name and her identity, threw away her Jewish star and became a Russian worker who spoke Polish, German called Katerina Kryvsheja. Nobody knew she was Jewish, she said she was Catholic. This worked until one day some said she was Jewish. She decided to escape and go to Switzerland. She was caught after 2 days, imprisoned for 8 months and in February 1943 sent to Auschwitz.

The triumph of good over evil

Regina described being in Auschwitz as like being in hell. She experienced some terrible things, but also remembered many kind, good and unselfish acts from people she hardly knew who were surviving in just as appalling conditions as she was. She survived because of these simple acts of human kindness and because the Nazis failed to destroy the essence of humanity, the human spirit.

Death marches

In January 1945, Regina was sent on one of the Death Marches. Those too ill to carry on were shot on the roadside. Regina was then moved on by train to several more concentration camps; Gross Rosen, then to Mauthausen (in Austria) and finally in February 1945 to Bergen-Belsen (Germany).

Liberation

On April 15 1945, the British army liberated Bergen-Belsen. Regina was suffering from with malaria, hepatitis and dysentery. After recovering she met one of the soldiers working there and later married him.

Regina died in 2001

Anne Frank Guide
This day in history
Today: 19 September 2018
Then: 17 September 1944

Start of Operation Market Garden, Allied airborne assault on the Netherlands.

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