Mother of Duchess of Cambridge’s Fashion Designer Recalls Holocaust Atrocities
The mother of the Duchess of Cambridge’s fashion designer opened up recently about being a young Jewish girl who witnessed her mom’s execution by Nazis.
Eighty-year-old London resident Hannah Lewis — whose daughter is clothing designer Jane Lewis — told the UK’s Daily Mail that she was six, and living in a farmhouse in Poland, when a Nazi killing squad came for her mother, Chaya Szczuryk.
“When the knock at the door came, she got up and she gave me a big kiss. Very unhurried, she walked to the door, opened it and closed it behind her,” Lewis recalled. When her mother did not return, Lewis decided to go and look for her. She then stood at the doorstep of her home and saw that a Nazi killing-squad had ordered some Jews, including her mother, to line up by the edge of a well.
“[My mother] was in the front row,” Lewis remembered. “There were probably two or three rows and she was to my left. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I decided I would go to her like I would always go to her, and get hold of her hand. As I was deciding how I was going to get down the steps, they were lined up. Someone barked an order and they started to shoot. I saw her fall. I saw the blood on the snow.”
Szczuryk was killed before her 30th birthday. Lewis told the Daily Mail she believed her mother left their home without looking back so that the Nazi soldiers would not notice the young girl in the house. She said about watching her mother’s death, “I think I grew up at that particular time.”
Lewis and her mother were at the labor camp at Adampol in eastern Poland and avoided being sent to the nearby Sobibor concentration camp because of the help of a family friend, who got them a job working in his farmhouse. Lewis later discovered that her father Adam, a local Polish partisan fighter, had also seen Szczuryk be murdered from his hiding place in the woods. After the war, Lewis and her father returned to their home and dug up valuables they buried in their garden, including belongings of Szczuryk that Lewis still has. Lewis went back to visit Poland in 1989.
“I needed to see where my mother had been killed,” she said. “I could find the house but not the well. Eventually I met a local woman who told me that a shed had been built around the well so that children didn’t fall into it. We found the shed and there, inside, was the well. Everything was exactly as I had remembered. I felt strangely elated to have found it but it was awful and very sad.”