For more than five decades, Leila Jabarin hid her secret from her Muslim children and grandchildren − that she was a Jewish Holocaust survivor born in Auschwitz concentration camp.
Although her family knew she was a Jewish convert, none of them knew of her brutal past.
It was only in the past week that Jabarin, who was born Helen Brashatsky, finally sat down and told them the story of how she was born inside Auschwitz, the most notorious symbol of Nazi Germany’s wartime campaign of genocide against Europe’s Jews.
In an interview with AFP to mark Holocaust Memorial Day which begins at sundown on Wednesday, Jabarin, now 70, chuckles as she talks about what to call her.
Her Muslim name is Leila, but in this Arab town in northern Israel where she has lived for the past 52 years, most people call her Umm Raja, Arabic for “Raja’s mother” after her first-born son.
Like most Jewish children, she also has a Hebrew name — Leah — but she just likes to be called Helen.
She was six when she came to live in Mandate Palestine with her parents, just months before the State of Israel was declared in May 1948.
They arrived in a ship carrying Jewish immigrants from the former Yugoslavia, which was forced to anchor off the coast of Haifa for a week due to a heavy British bombardment of the northern port city, she says.