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To Life: Stories of Courage and Survival
(United Jewish Federation of Tidewater)

Hidden Child of the Holocaust

By Zsa Zsa Palagyi and Scott Ross
The 700 Club

CBN.comSCOTT ROSS (reporting): Kitty grew up during the Holocaust, one of the most horrific times in history. It was a period of incomprehensible persecution and mass torture. At least six million Jews and three million other innocent men, women, and children perished in concentration camps and gas chambers. It was Adolf Hitler's master plan called 'The Final Solution.' Only one out of three Jews in Europe survived, and Kitty was one of them.

SCOTT ROSS: When you hear the word 'Holocaust,' what kind of effect does it have?

KITTY SAKS: I feel anger toward the Nazis. I’ll never forget what they did. It was absolutely madness. It was a mad world that we came from. How would you like someone to come into your house and take over? I mean, it’s unheard of to be evicted from your own home, to be thrown out of your own country because you’re a Jew.

SCOTT (reporting): But that’s exactly what happened to Kitty. When she was only 6, the Nazis took over Kitty’s home in Austria. Looking for an escape, she and her parents fled to Belgium.

KITTY: All I wanted to do was be back with my grandparents and my parents. It became extremely difficult for me to accept the fact that we were on the run and we had to leave. I couldn’t understand. I just couldn’t understand.

SCOTT (reporting): Unfortunately, the Germans took over five days before Kitty’s family was scheduled to leave for the United States. That changed everything.

KITTY: We had to wear the yellow star to identify, and then you could no longer go to see a physician. No Jew could go to seek medical assistance; no Jew could go to the theater; no Jew could go to the park.

SCOTT (reporting): As life for Jews became more and more endangered, Kitty’s parents went into hiding in an efficiency apartment, while little Kitty and her constant companion, 'Eva,' had to rely on someone of a different faith.

KITTY: I had a Christian rescuer because you could not do it without a Christian who cared enough about somebody else, for a person’s life.

SCOTT: Who was this person?

KITTY: This person was my gym teacher. Her name was Fernan Herar. She was a devout Catholic.

SCOTT: French?

KITTY: Belgian. She saw me walking the streets one day and she said, 'Kitty, I think it’s very dangerous for you to walk around displaying your star. I want to place you in a convent.'

SCOTT: Why would she want to do this? She was taking an enormous risk herself? Why?

KITTY: She said, 'I’m my brother’s keeper.' She placed many -- I’m not the only one. She placed many children in convents, orphanages, boarding schools with Christians, whoever wanted to take us in.

SCOTT: I know historically that there were a number of Jews who were asked to convert to the Catholic faith or the Christian faith. Did that happen to you?

KITTY: Yes, it did.

SCOTT: They asked you to convert to Catholicism?

KITTY: Well, yes. In this particular convent where I was finally placed, after many attempts to place me, it had to be, and I realized it had to be. I had to blend in.

SCOTT: Did you change your name?

KITTY: My name was changed for me.

SCOTT: And what was your given name now?

KITTY: Miss Harar took me to the last convent where they finally took me in. I was 9 years old going on 10. She said, 'Your name is no longer Kitty Friedenbach. It is now Rosette Nizolle.' She made me repeat this over and over: 'Rosette Nizolle, Rosette Nizolle.' 'You don’t speak German. You only speak French. You’re not Jewish. You’re Catholic.' That day, I became a hidden child.

SCOTT: Just a question. A young girl who had been raised…was it an Orthodox Jewish home?


SCOTT: But you still knew the Ten Commandments?


SCOTT: One of them, of course, is -- to use the King James English -- thou shall not lie.' Did you have any problem with that mentally?


SCOTT: You just knew that your survival was at stake here?

KITTY: To me, it was like being in a play where I made it up as I went along. It was not really lying. It was being in a play where I had to just do my part, change my part.

SCOTT: You were the actress.

KITTY: I had to be. Fast, too. I was baptized. First, I was given lessons in catechism by one of the nuns.

SCOTT: When you were alone at night in bed and lying there thinking, did you still pray?

KITTY: Yes I did.

SCOTT: Who did you pray to?

KITTY: I prayed to God. Don’t we all pray to God?

SCOTT: Yeah, but now that you’re converted to Catholicism, was that something that you did mentally, intellectually, or was that an issue of the heart?

KITTY: No, I can’t say it was an issue of the heart.

SCOTT: It was something you were told to do? It was all part of your acting?

KITTY: Yeah, I prayed to God. I prayed to God. I said the Shamah, which is the holiest of the Jewish Prayers: 'Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.' And that’s exactly what it is. So, during the day, I was a Catholic girl; at night I became a little Jewish girl, but I prayed to God.

SCOTT: Were you aware of the camps? Had you heard talk? Were there rumors?

KITTY: Yeah, Miss Harar said they burn children. To me, that was a made-up thing, but apparently it must have trickled out, but they must have known something. How about the people living near the camps? They didn’t smell the burning flesh. I mean, I didn’t know. Personally, I did not know, and I didn’t believe it.

SCOTT (reporting): But it was happening. After moving to seven different locations and almost blowing her cover, Kitty was re-united with her parents. It was September 4, 1944.

KITTY: The door opened up and the sister opened up and said, 'Children, we have been liberated.' That was truly the happiest day of my life.

SCOTT (reporting): Today, Kitty lives in Norfolk with Abbot Saks, her husband of 48 years. Kitty’s complete story can be found in the book To Life: Stories of Courage and Survival.

SCOTT: Have you gone through it all? Survivors guilt?

KITTY: Yes, in the beginning.

SCOTT: Was there any consciousness of the God of the universe watching over little Kitty?

KITTY: After all of that, yes. How about us, all of us?

SCOTT: Yeah, who survived.

KITTY: Why didn’t the Gestapo knock in the door where my parents were? Why did he save them? I mean, they came so close to being taken. There’s a reason why we survived, but in the beginning, I was just too happy to be free. Then the guilt set in, like I said before, and I said, 'Why me and all my girlfriends? It’s a very hard pill to swallow.

SCOTT: It seems so difficult to see in your bookshelf a book on Adolf Hitler when you hear that name and you think about that, when you see the films on television.

KITTY: Yes, very bad. It’s gotten a little bit better now, but in the beginning I couldn’t watch anything. That’s why when we were stationed in Berlin, it was so difficult because I actually picked fights with the Germans. I’m ashamed to say that, but it’s true.

SCOTT: Have you been able to forgive Germans?

KITTY: Well, I used to put them all in one pot and say they’re all guilty. Over the years, I’ve been able to separate it a little bit.

SCOTT: Two words, Kitty: Never again. Could it happen again?

KITTY: No, I don’t think so. All my friends always say the opposite. All the other survivors say it could happen. I think I’m the only one that will say no.

SCOTT: If you could speak to God now, what would you say?

KITTY: Thank God for helping us. I do that all the time.


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