CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — Renee Fink, who now lives in Chapel Hill, survived the Holocaust as a “hidden child.” Her parents sent her to live with strangers to give her the best chance at survival.
On Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, she shared her story with CBS 17.
Born in the Netherlands in 1937, Renee Fink never knew the carefree toddler years spent with her parents would be the only time they’d have together.
“In 1942 times became very bad for Jews,” she said. “We fought as hard as we could.”
When the danger became too great, her parents made the heart-wrenching decision to send her into hiding.
“Only lately have I really begun to wonder how can a parent I have that level of strength and love and courage,” she said. “The absolute love to part with your child in case the child might survive.”
At just 4 years old she moved into a house she’d never seen with a family she’d never met, a Catholic family willing to risk their own lives to hide her from the Nazis.
“They could’ve been shot on the spot,” Fink explained, adding that when German soldiers would come looking for Jews, the family knew Renee’s dark hair could give her away.
“They threw me into bed,” she recalled. “They covered my hair with blankets, and they said I had TB.”
Fink was too young to understand but felt the fear from the family she’d come to love. “It was so palpable; it was horrible,” she said.
Their kindness saved her life, but she never saw her parents again. They died in Auschwitz.
Though it’s difficult knowing she survived when so many millions were murdered, she is immeasurably grateful. “The whole point about my being alive is not that I was strong,” she said. “It is that people showed incredible courage.”
She hopes that courage will live on through those who hear their stories, and she encourages children to take actions as simple as standing up to bullies.
“There are times in life when you cannot stand by silently,” Fink said. “This kind of courage is what keeps the world going.”