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Barbara was the only daughter of Jetka and Philip Schechter. Jetka grew up in Stanislawow, Poland, where she had lived with her parents, two sisters and a brother. Stanislawow was a large city that had a population of over 30,000 Jews in 1942. Jetka's father, a decorator, had his own store, where her mother also worked. Jetka worked as a bookkeeper in a large factory. When she and Philip married in 1940, they moved 50 miles away, to the town of Buczacz. Life was difficult, but the young married couple was optimistic. Their daughter, Barbara, was born in 1941. Soon after, the Germans invaded eastern Poland, immediately setting out to annihilate the Jews of the region.
In August 1942, Jetka received a desperate, pleading letter from her father. He had been a witness, the previous year, to the mass murder of over 10,000 Jews in Stanislawow. The Jews had been rounded up and driven out of their homes to the town hall square. Thousands were marched out of town to the Jewish cemetery, beaten as they were herded along. Forced to undress and leap into previously prepared graves, they were machine-gunned to death. Jetka's sisters and brother were sent to the Belzec death camp.
Frantic, Jetka and Philip knew that it was just a matter of time before it would be their turn. They somehow managed to obtain false papers giving them new identities as non-Jews. Mr. and Mrs. Schechter resolved to leave their town, where their identities were known, and to try to save their family. They decided to separate, feeling that it would be safer if they were not together. On foot, they left in opposite directions, not knowing if they would ever see one another again.
Mrs. Schechter and her baby made their way to a tiny village in Germany, near the Austrian border. She arranged for a German woman to care for Barbara. The woman was willing to raise Barbara on condition that Jetka would not call or visit often. Barbara did not know her mother. She was afraid of her on the few occasions when Jetka was permitted to visit. When the war ended in Spring 1945, Barbara was four years old. Jetka claimed her child and was reunited with Philip.