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Jasia, the daughter of Adam and Pela (Miller) Starkopf, was born in the Warsaw ghetto. Her parents were childhood sweethearts. Before the war, her father was the office manager and chief accountant of a leather goods factory. Mr. and Mrs. Starkopf lived with Jasia's grandparents in a spacious Warsaw apartment. After the German invasion, Mr. Starkopf went into business selling toys and novelties. When the Germans occupied Warsaw, they enacted harsh anti-Jewish measures causing great hardship.
On October 14, 1940, the Warsaw ghetto was established. In November, the ghetto was sealed off. Jasia was born on January 14, 1941, delivered by a midwife on the dining room table. She was swaddled in a pillowcase that was tied with a belt. Her grandparents sold what little they still possessed, mostly clothes, just to buy her milk.
By the summer of 1941, starvation was a major problem in the ghetto. People were collapsing and dying in the street. In order to obtain food for Jasia and her mother, Mr. Starkopf began making trips outside the ghetto to the non-Jewish area of the city. After a close escape during the first massive roundup of Jews for deportation to death camps, he determined that the only way his family might survive, would be to escape from the ghetto.
Jasia's father was able to obtain false documents for his family, giving them new identities as non-Jews. Unable to trust Jasia, only eighteen months old, to keep quiet while being smuggled out of the ghetto, Mr. Starkopf gave Jasia medication that put her to sleep. Her parents placed her in a coffin and arranged that she be taken to the Jewish cemetery for burial. Her mother bribed guards so that she could follow the hearse to the cemetery. From there, they slipped into the adjacent Catholic cemetery and the non-Jewish sector of the city.
Jasia and her parents spent the rest of the war posing as Christians in the Polish countryside. They constantly feared discovery. They returned to Warsaw in January 1945, after it was liberated. Jasia was four years old.