Amalia was born on July 30, 1939, in Amsterdam. Her father, a successful businessman, had moved there from Berlin after an incident with a Nazi. On a visit to his native city of Cracow, Poland, Mr. Dembitzer met Amalia's mother. He soon married her and brought her back with him to Amsterdam.
After the Nazis invaded Holland in May 1940, they imposed harsh anti-Jewish measures. Amalia's family fled to relatives in Belgium soon after her infant sister was born.
Fearing for their lives under the Nazis, Amalia's parents attempted to escape. They were granted "Vatican Passports" through relatives in Italy, but had to pick them up in Spain. Through underground contacts, they were able to find a hiding place with a Christian family for their three small children, all younger than three years old. They planned to follow a dangerous escape route and would be unable to take the children with them. They would send for them later.
The children were moved from one hiding place to another, often under the cover of darkness. Too young to comprehend what was happening to them, the children only knew that their lives were in danger. They were frightened and missed their parents. Amalia was given the more Christian-sounding name, Maria. She eventually forgot her real name.
During the last year of the war, Amalia, her brother, and her sister lived with a warm, loving family in a small village near Brussels. The children were finally permitted to play outside. Amalia attended nursery school and went to church with the family, yet somehow she knew that she was Jewish.
Belgium was liberated in September 1944, shortly after Amalia's fifth birthday. She learned later on that her parents had been caught on the Spanish-French border while attempting to escape to Spain. They were sent to the Auschwitz death camp where they were murdered.
Amalia, five years old, her six year-old brother, and her four year-old sister were orphans.