“I used to have imaginary friends. I had no friends. For two years, I never played with anyone.”
– Jeannine Burk
Three of our survivors were “hidden children” during the war. Jeannine Burk was hidden in the home of a Christian woman in a suburb of Brussels, Belgium. The sisters Anne Levy and Lila Millen were hidden in the Warsaw ghetto. Once the family escaped to the Aryan side, Lila “passed” as a Catholic girl, and absorbed the anti-Semitism that was inflamed by the war. With her Jewish looks, Anne remained a “hidden child” on the Aryan side, jumping in the armoire whenever a visitor knocked.
In every Nazi-occupied country, informers played a devastating role. They denounced Jews in hiding and Jews “passing” as non-Jews. The Germans on their own would never have gotten their hands on these people. Jeannine, except to hide in the “out house,” didn’t leave her rescuer’s apartment for two years. It’s likely some of the neighbors knew what was going on. If they did, they kept quiet. In Warsaw, informers were numerous. Betraying Jews was easy money. Also dangerous was the ordinary citizen who felt it a patriotic and religious duty to denounce Jews, to purify Poland at long last. After all, the stereotype went, the Jews killed “our Lord,” and most were communists anyway.