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Holocaust Survivor Oral Histories

From 2003 through 2013, Professor Uta Larkey from Goucher College (Baltimore, MD) conducted a class that required students to interview Baltimore-area Holocaust survivors.

INTERVIEW 1: Life Before World War II

INTERVIEW 2: Experiences During the War Years

INTERVIEW 3: Liberation and the Aftermath

Biography

Rivka Zhurmunski was born on June 10, 1923 in Zyrmuny, Poland (present-day Belarus). In September 1939, the Russian army occupied Zyrmuny and Rivka began working at a Russian bank in Radom, Poland. On June 22, 1941, the Nazis occupied Radom and Rivka decided to leave. After crossing the Russian border, she encountered Partisan fighters, slept on a train, found shelter in a school, and eventually hid on a farm and in a stranger’s home. In the summer of 1943, Rivka worked in a brick-making factory. In the winter of that year, Rivka worked in another factory where she kneaded clay. Due to the intensive labor, she fractured her back. In 1944, Rivka moved to Stalingrad and lived in a room with thirty other women and worked on machines. She received Stalin’s medal for hard work and thus was given more food and water. Towards the end of the war, Rivka nearly died from dysentery in a shelter that had been bombed out.

When the war ended, Rivka met Max Pancerman, who she married in 1945. They left the Soviet Union in February of 1946 and lived in Poland for three months before relocating to the American Zone in Germany. Between 1946 and 1949, Rivka and Max lived in a displacement persons camp, where their daughter was born. On March 30, 1949, the Pancermans emigrated to Montreal, Canada, and lived there until 1956. Rivka had twins, a boy and girl. They then moved to Flishing, New York in January of 1956, spending 35 years there before relocating to Florida in 1991. Max passed away in 2002, and in 2010, Rivka joined her children in Baltimore to be closer to them.  

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