SHE stayed in a hole and did not see daylight for a year, but Holocaust survivor Janine Webber has been able to share the story of her suffering with pupils at Testbourne Community School.
Mrs Webber was born in Lwow, Poland, in 1932, where persecution of the Jews started in 1941 after the German invasion.
The young Janine and her family were forced out of their home and allocated one room in a house. Here, her parents dug a hole under the wardrobe which was used as a hiding place by Janine, her brother and mother when the Germans came to take people away to a concentration camp. Her father was found in the attic and shot and her mother died of typhus in a ghetto.
Janine’s uncle found her a non-Jewish family outside the ghetto, prepared to hide the nine-year-old. It was not long before she was ordered to leave, and she went to live with another family along with her seven-year-old brother. But the Polish daughter of the family brought home an SS officer, who murdered her brother. She fled and worked as a shepherdess until the family found out she was a Jew.
Desperate, she went to a convent and was sheltered by a caretaker recommended by her aunt, who also had taken refuge there.
With another uncle and 12 other Jews, they dug a hole in the stable floor to live in. At the end of the war, still fearful of Polish hatred for Jews, Janine and her aunt left for Paris.
In 1956, Janine came to the UK and met and married her husband and had two children. Her visit to Testbourne, in Micheldever Road, Whitchurch, was organised by the Holocaust Educational Trust, a charity.
Helen Eagles, head of religious education at Testbourne, said the students were “mesmerised” by her story.
Headteacher Hilary Jackson said: “It was a privilege for us to welcome Janine Webber, and her testimony will remain a powerful reminder of the horrors so many experienced.”