Fanny Bienenfeld Lust recounted before a crowd of 80 people Sunday at the Holocaust Resource Center in Manhasset how her mother navigated their family through six countries in an 18-month journey to escape Nazi-occupied Europe.
Using a pencil and paper, the 89-year-old had written "Remembering Regina: My Journey to Freedom," the culmination of the admiration and awe she felt for her mother, who died in 1993 at the age of 95. The book was published by Yad Vashem, a Jerusalem-based Holocaust memorial and education center.
"I always knew I was going to write something," Bienenfeld Lust said. "Mine is a different story, because we were not in the concentration camps; we escaped it. I was young and I was only 14 when we started traveling and I didn't understand."Reader essay: D-Day and a new perspective
While 40 of Bienenfeld Lust's family members were killed during World War II -- most in concentration camps -- she said her story was about survival.
The Polish-born Northport resident read to the audience from her memoir, describing her mother, Regina, as a woman who discreetly searched the streets of Krakow for someone to find her family passage out of Poland.
Irving Roth, director of the Holocaust Resource Center, said it was critical to share stories like Bienenfeld Lust's.
"The importance of the individual memoirs is the story of the Holocaust," Roth said. "To understand what actually took place, to understand . . . that a society can be transformed -- you can only get that from a survivor's memoirs."
Bienenfeld Lust's mother prevailed in her search for an escape when she ran into a German soldier she had known when the family lived in Berlin from 1933 to 1939.
He had been a customer at the family's Army and Navy clothing store before they returned to their native Poland as Hitler's persecution of the Jews escalated.
The soldier connected her with a Nazi colonel who helped the family obtain a transit visa for Honduras.
The family of four's trip spanned Austria, Italy, Morocco, Spain and Portugal and finally New York.
Throughout, the family's driving force was her mother's resourcefulness and relentless efforts to keep her family alive, Bienenfeld Lust said.
Bienenfeld Lust said it is important to add her mother's story to the many others of the oppression under Hitler. "To honor the memory of my loved ones and to honor the memory of the millions who were so shamelessly murdered in the death camps.
"It is our moral obligation to keep this horrific chapter of our history alive," Bienenfeld Lust said, "so that such unspeakable atrocities against humanity will never happen again."
CORRECTION: In an earlier version, Fanny Bienenfeld Lust's name was incorrectly spelled.