Holocaust survivor Lucy K. Smith dies at 89

Holocaust Survivor Lucy Smith with Dan Olson
Holocaust Survivor Lucy Smith and Voices of MN Producer Dan Olson conduct an interview in March, 1997.

Funeral services were held Friday morning for St. Paul resident and Holocaust survivor Lucy K. Smith. Born in Krakow, Poland, in 1933, she lost almost everyone in her family after the Nazis invaded her homeland.

She and her mother went into hiding, knowing every day could be their last. They hid for six years and were never caught. In 1997 Lucy Smith told MPR's Dan Olson about her experiences. She said as Jews, they were prohibited from owning a business, and the Nazis appointed an administrator to take over. This is what happened to the business owned by her grandfather.

The following transcript is highlights from their conversation. Click the audio player above to listen to their full conversation.

Our [administrator] happened to be a Ukrainian man. And I would like to tell his name because he was such a decent person. It was Eugene ... When the first action came in, we didn't even know about it. He rushed very early into our apartment and told us to hide in the attic. And he stayed in our apartment to prevent anyone to come to the attic. He was just a decent person.

He knew this was happening?

Yes, he came and said, “Hide, hide,” right? And there was several more times where he was helping us that way.

 And so what would you do? You would run to the attic?

We ran to the attic, we stayed three days and three nights in this attic. And he was staying in our apartment. Because whoever would go to the attic would have to pass by the door of the apartment.

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 And he would lie?

He would lie. Yes. When I'm going to school, I use that often too. Ask people, what do you think? What is more immoral? Lying or not? Because we have such a one-sided mind and we don't look at our ethics from the point of view. What is really right and wrong?

Why do you think he did this?

 I believe he was born decent. Can't have other explanation because he had nothing out of it.

 Did the family get to know him at all?

Yes, we trust him. Later on, two uncles, who were shot by Gestapo, had a store which was kind of like a cosmetic part of a drug store. Since the whole family was already taken away, my mother got keys to this store. And we were hiding there. We had to trust this man to lock us in. So from outside it would look locked. And we had to trust for him to him to come back when it was safe and open the door. He was also leaving a note for us by the window so we could take some information and brought us some tea. There was no water there whatsoever.

You would hide for days at a time?

Yes, like a week or two.

And what kind of provisions did you have for hiding? You had the clothes you were wearing? What kind of food did you have?

 Some bread usually.

 And what was going on all around you as you were hiding?

 We could hear only … that was later on when we were hiding in the ghetto in the coal cellar. So we could hear from that cellar. Dogs barking and SS men screaming, shouting, but otherwise we didn't know anything. Till we were getting out and so many people were gone. Absent.