Memories of pre-war life

The Judaism and Jewish life section of The Holocaust Explained has provided an overview of Jewish identities, beliefs and practices. You will have learned about the rich cultural variety within Jewish life.

The survivors interviewed for this site provide an insight into their pre-war life and that of their family. On this current page you have an opportunity to see, hear and learn from their testimonies about life as a child within pre-war Europe.


Freddie, one of three boys, was an Austrian Jewish boy born in Vienna, Austria in 1921. Watch and listen as Freddie talks affectionately about his childhood in Vienna.

Freddie talks about an antisemitic event in school that. What was this event?


Jack was born in 1929 in the town of Novogrudek, in Belarus. He describes how the vibrant community of his hometown coped with conflicts. 

Jack also talks about the cultural richness of Jewish life in the town before the Soviet Army arrived during September 1939.


Joan was born to Polish parents in Brussels during February 1940. Her birth name was Fanny Zimmerbaum, but it was changed later in her life. (You can learn how Joan came to change her name by watching all of Joan’s video excerpts or the whole interview)

Watch and listen as Joan explains her family background, how her parents met and other aspects of life before the war.


Please note that the lead in to the videos may take a few moments to allow the video to begin.


As you watch the videos reflect on the richness of the lives that existed before the Nazis came to power.

Then, as you use The Holocaust Explained, reflect on what was lost, but also what has been left behind.