Edzia, one of four children born to Carola and Israel Abbe, grew up in Lodz, Poland. Her father owned a haberdashery store, where he sold hats, gloves, and other accessories. She had one sister and two brothers. A large, fairly liberal city, Lodz was home to over 233,000 Jews. It was a major center of the textile industry. Its diverse population of Jews, Poles and Germans lived together in relative peace.
When the Germans occupied Lodz in September 1939, Edzia was a thirteen year-old schoolgirl. Anti-Jewish restrictions were immediately enacted. Jews were forbidden to congregate for religious services, they were subject to curfew, their radios were confiscated, and they were forced to wear the yellow star. In addition, Jews were barred from most professions, and all Jewish communal institutions were ordered to disband.
On February 8, 1940, Edzia and her family, along with all of Lodz's Jews, were forced to live in a run-down part of the city. On May 1, 1940, the overcrowded ghetto was closed off.
Living conditions were horrendous. There was no heat, little food or medicine, and inadequate sanitation. People fell dead in the street from starvation, disease and exposure. Still, the basic appearance of normal inner-city life was maintained. Schools and hospitals still functioned.
The Germans constantly harassed the Jewish residents of the ghetto, randomly seizing people on the streets, raiding their apartments, and subjecting them to horrendous indignities. People were shot for the slightest reason. Young children often became the sole support of their families. They would smuggle themselves out of the ghetto in order to find food and bring it back to their starving parents, brothers and sisters. Edzia's older brother, Natan, was shot in late 1940, by a German soldier at the ghetto gate. He was sixteen years old. Her mother died of starvation in early 1941. Fifteen year-old Edzia was seized and sent to forced labor in a German-run textile factory in Augsburg. Conditions there were horrible. There was little food and the workers were constantly tortured. In May 1943, the factory was evacuated. The Jewish workers were sent to an unknown destination and were never heard from again. Edzia was seventeen years old.