Birthdate: August 22, 1937
Birthplace: Przemysl, Poland
Religious Identity: Jewish
“One of my father’s sisters didn’t feel she needed to wear the white armband with a blue Star of David which was mandated in Poland. She was stopped by a Ukrainian Militia man. A check of her papers revealed she was Jewish so he asked for a bribe which she refused to pay. She was imprisoned for a month, during which time the family tried to buy her freedom unsuccessfully. At the end of the month all the prisoners were taken to the forest and executed.”
Irene Skolnick was born in Przemysl, Poland in 1937. She and her family came under Nazi occupation on June 22, 1941 when Hitler attacked the USSR. In December 1941, the family was forced to move into the ghetto. As life became ever more precarious, her mother decided that the family’s only chance of survival was to change their identity. They obtained false papers and passed themselves off as Catholic Poles. The family left the ghetto in August 1942, just as the deportation started. Irene and her older brother were briefly sheltered by former friends of her parents. Subsequently the family moved to Lublin where her father was employed by Poles who were very helpful. Through his work, her father obtained permission to move into a small, primitive single-family home on the outskirts of the city less than half a mile away from Madjanek, the second largest concentration camp in Poland. In that two-room house with no electricity or indoor plumbing, Irene’s parents hid up to eight members of her father’s family in the attic and cellar. After the war Irene and her family moved to France where they lived for six years before coming to the U.S. in 1952, when she was 14 years old. Irene and her husband, Leon, have three children, and seven grandchildren. Irene enjoys auditing classes in art, literature, and history at the University of Pittsburgh, and when they are in Florida she lives a much more physically active life, swimming and biking.
“I met him in 1959; the facetious answer he likes to give is “he met me in a tree.” We both attended a young adult summer camp run by the 92nd street Y and we went on a hike. I liked to climb trees, and I was up in the tree when he decided to take a picture of me.”
Read her full testimony here.