The Holocaust was a horrific time in human history, but also a time of great bravery and kindness. As the Nazis expanded their reach and tightened their grip on Europe, they worked to systematically destroy populations of people within their borders they felt were undesirable. For the most part, the Nazis focused their effort on Jewish people, who were rounded up and put into ghettos, then eventually shipped to concentration camps. Millions died. But, luckily, there are stories of people who hid from the Nazis during World War II, and managed to stay hidden until the end of the war.
Thanks to underground resistance movements, the cunning of ordinary folks, and the courageous help from friends, numerous people went into hiding, and stayed out of the Nazi's grasp. Many managed to stay safe until the Allies liberated Europe, though others weren't so fortunate. The Nazis were relentless in their pursuit, and many courageous souls were discovered. Still, there are some spectacular accounts from people who hid from the Nazis, survived WWII, and lived to pass on the stories below.
Marie Jalowicz Simon Became a "Submerged" Woman
As the situation deteriorated in Nazi Germany for Jews, Marie Jalowicz decided to hide in plain sight. In 1941, she told a postman that her "neighbor" Marie was taken by the Nazis, then simply started walking around without a star on her jacket, living under a false identity. In the coming years, she took menial jobs and lived in several Berlin flats, at times with roommates who were fervent Nazis. While living this double life, Jalowicz sabotaged production at the arms factory where she worked. She went on to become a professor at Humboldt University after the war, where she worked until her death in 1998.
300 People Hid from the Nazis in Warsaw Zoo
In 1940, the Tirosh family posed as Polish travelers to get past German guards. They did so to reach a zoo run by Jan Zabinski and his wife Antonia, who were members of the Polish resistance, and hid Jews in their establishment's underground pathways. The zoo was also used to store arms for the resistance. After the animals had been killed by the Nazis, or shipped to German zoos, the grounds were turned it into a pig farm, so the Zabinskis could continue their operations. When Nazis came for an inspection, Antonia would play piano melodies to communicate plans of action to those in hiding. The Tirosh family survived, and the youngest son, Moshe Tirosh, eventually found his way to Israel.
Anne Frank's Family Hid in an Attic for Two Years
In July 1942, when the Nazis began to send Jews in Amsterdam to concentration camps, Anne Frank's family went into hiding in a secret attic apartment. The family lived with four Dutch Jews, also in hiding, for two years. Their benefactors, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, Jan Gies, and Miep Gies, maintained the hiding place and smuggled the Franks food and clothing. In August 1944, the Gestapo discovered the Franks, and sent them to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belson for labor. Everyone but Anne's father, Otto, died in 1945, before the camps were liberated.
The Stermer Family Hid in a Cave for More Than a Year
When Germany invaded Ukraine in 1941, Esther Stermer's family, along with five other families, escaped Nazis by fleeing in the middle of the night to an underground cave. For 18 months, the 38 members of this group of families lived in total darkness during the day, and scavenged for food at night.
Eventually, German SS soldiers found the cave, and Esther came face-to-face with Nazis. With their guns pointed in her face, Esther said to the Germans, "What are you afraid of here? The Fuhrer is gonna lose the war because we live here?" The soldiers left, and never returned. Soon after, Russians liberated the area, and the families were able leave. Their triumph was the longest uninterrupted underground survival situation in recorded history.