Holocaust Memorial Day – Harrowing story of Brit mum murdered with her son, 5, at Auschwitz as they fled Nazis

THE HARROWING untold story of a British Jew rounded up by SS guards in France and sent to the Auschwitz gas chamber with her five-year-old son has been revealed – almost 80 years on.

Betty Zilberstein, 35, and her young son Harvey were captured at their home in Paris in 1942 just hours before they planned to escape and join her husband, George, and two other children in hiding in the small French village of Boisset.

Having stayed behind when Harvey became ill with an ear infection, Nazi guards & French police refused to spare their lives when they raided their home – sending them both on the 1,000 mile trip to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The pair never saw their family again after being sent to the gas chamber on arrival along with over 1million other Jews who were put to death at the Nazi death camp as part of Hitler’s vile "Final Solution". 

On Holocaust Memorial Day, their heartbreaking story has been revealed exclusively to The Sun Online by Betty’s daughter, Ozi Van Straten, 80, who never knew her mother after being forced into hiding aged two. 

Ozi, who now lives in Israel, fled with her father and older brother, Michel, as they took refuge inside a disused flour mill in the town of Boisset,350 miles away from Paris.

She shared her heartbreak after uncovering her mum and brother’s tragic final moments onboard a train bound for the gas chamber.

But she said there is some comfort in knowing their suffering had not been prolonged inside the Polish camp. 

The mum-of-three told The Sun Online: “It was very hard not to have any memories of my mother, I was so young. 

“I would ask my father where mother was constantly and he would take me to the train tracks and tell me this is where she would come soon, she never arrived. 

I can’t imagine the pain my mother went through

“I don’t envy my father, losing a wife and a son in such an awful way. He had to be strong for us.  

“Even when he spoke to us about her, his face would light up as if he thought she was about to walk into the room. 

“I can’t imagine the pain my mother went through, watching my father go, then my brother and then me. She would never get to see us again. 

“It was only years later we really found out more details about what happened to them.”

Over 6million Jews were murdered under the Nazi regime between 1941 and 1945 during World War 2 – the atrocity became known as the Holocaust.

It is unclear the exact number of Brits that were killed at the camp but it is thought around 1,400 Brit PoWs were housed there, while documents also show 100 Brits were sent to the gas chamber in 1944.

Auschwitz, and its second camp Auschwitz Birkenau, would become one of 40 death camps operated by the Nazis with prisoners exterminated in gas chambers through starvation and disease to leave only an ‘Aryan master race’.


A young Betty Zilberstein was living in Paris after moving from the East End of London in 1935 to marry her French husband, a translator for a French broadcast company.  

After the birth of their eldest son, Michel, Harvey followed and Ozi completed the family in 1940. 

Little did they know the horrors that would follow as Hitler’s army marched across the border set on world domination and destruction. 

France's fall led to the persecution of Jews in the country as thousands were placed in ghettos or transported to camps to be put to death.  

George, fearing the worst for his family, planned to move his loved ones to the quiet town of Boisset where a friend had promised he could hide them safely inside a disused flour mill. 

Having made the journey himself he was able to transport his two children to join him – while Betty stayed behind with Harvey who would not stop crying due to a painful ear infection. 

Just hours before Betty and her infant were to set to join their family, SS guards and French police raided the home in search of her husband.

Hitler's evil secret police were furious when they discovered he had already gone.

Ozi describes in harrowing detail how her mother frantically waved her British passport at them in the hopes it would save their lives – but both were shipped to the Drancy detention camp by the merciless guards. 

Ozi, now a grandmother to seven, said: “Some years ago my brother travelled back to our Paris home and was stunned when met by a neighbour that saw our mother taken away. 

“He said he begged them to let my brother stay with him and just take my mother, they refused. He risked his life to save him. 

“As a mother myself now I can't imagine her pain. Seeing those huge guards in uniform, my brother crying and not being able to calm him.”

On arrival at Drancy camp, Betty met an English speaking nurse and was able to hand over a diamond ring and bracelet, before begging her to return the jewellery to her husband. 

Ozi now wears the diamond ring on her right hand as well as the bracelet – once belonging to the heroic mother she never knew. 

The pair would be dead just days later after being transported on the same train to the largest Nazi death camp – meeting the same fate as 1million other Jews inside the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

Unaware that his wife and son were now dead, George raised his two children in the flour mill – hidden inside with the help of a Catholic couple, Laurent and Blanche Danguiral.


Ozi reveals how her father would send secret notes back home to his family in Paris hidden inside walnuts, smuggled back into the capital by a friend. 

He was able to request a camera from his sister, capturing their time in the small idyllic village, a million miles away from the horrors of Auschwitz. 

Ozi says her father never came to terms with losing his wife and son and struggled to open up about his loss after the family returned home to Paris in 1945. 

Ozi said: “When we arrived home a family friend told my father he had seen my mother in the French camp and that she had been taken to Auschwitz.

Holocaust Memorial Day

AROUND six million Jews were brutally slaughtered during World War II as well as millions of other ethnic minorities including gypsies and the disabled.

The world – including the UK – remembers them today on Holocaust Memorial Day, 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Holocaust Memorial Day is held every year on January 27.

This date, in 1945, marks the liberation of German Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz, by the Soviets, nearly eight months before the war officially ended.

By the time the Soviets arrived, most of the camp's prisoners had already been sent out on a death march.

Around 7,000 prisoners were still alive when the concentration camp was liberated.

Hitler's genocide, known as Shoah in Hebrew, wiped out two-thirds of Europe's Jewish population – including an estimated 1.5m children.

These horrific killings, which took place between 1941 and 1945, shook the world.

In the five years it was open, roughly 1.1million people were killed at Auschwitz.

Around 90 per cent of them were Jewish, while the other victims were generally Romany, Polish and Soviet people.

One in six of the Jews killed during the war died at Auschwitz, in what the Nazis called Hitler's Final Solution.

Since 1996, January 27 has officially been remembered in Germany as the Anniversary for the Victims of National Socialism, with Italy and Poland later adopting similar memorial days.

In 2005, the United Nations (UN) voted  to officially commemorate the Holocaust.

“I overheard him telling my grandmother in the next room that she had died. 

“My mother and father were a romantic couple, they would often drink wine and read poetry together when she first moved to Paris. 

“They were only able to spend ten years together, it is truly heartbreaking.

“My brother never got over it. He remembered Harvey being born, how he looked up to him.”

Not long after George relocated his family to Boston, New York, for a fresh start but Ozi describes how they were treated as outcasts only being accepted by other immigrants. 

She said: “My father struggled to get work and there was lots of anti-semitism even in America. 

“Survivors like us didn’t want to talk and no one would listen – no one believed what we had gone through.

“Every year I struggle with the thought of losing them – it's 78 years to the day that they were killed.”

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