Local Holocaust survivor recalls harrowing experience 74 years later

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Sunday marked 74 years since the Allies liberated the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. Over 1.1 million people are believed to have died inside the confines of that death camp. 

Local Holocaust survivor, Jacqueline Albin, was just a toddler when World War II began. However, she said she can still recall memories from those harrowing six years that continue to haunt her today.

"It's fear really, it's a great deal of fear,” said Albin. 

As one of the only Jewish families in her French town, Albin was taught from a young age to be wary and always stay on guard.

"I was always told, 'Don't tell anyone you're Jewish, because you don't know who to trust.’" she said.

With her father away fighting for the French Resistance, Albin and her mother were left alone. They were often stuck hiding from Nazi troops as the soldiers invaded nearby homes.

"I really remember once sleeping in the bushes. I don't know how many times this happened,” Albin said. “Another time we slept at a neighbor's house."

Albin was able to evade Nazi capture; however, her grandparents weren’t as lucky.

"My grandparents were arrested by the French police,” Albin recalled. “They were taken to Auschwitz, and they were probably immediately killed because my grandfather was 70 and my grandmother was 66."

As the war neared to a close, Albin, her mother and her newborn sister escaped to the mountains in hopes of finding safety. However, the Nazi’s terror wasn’t over just yet. 

"They bombed us. The house next door was like a big hole, just a big hole. I was so scared I could not walk," she said.

Albin and her family eventually made it to the United States where she married and had two children of her own. 

However, she attributes her survival to friends and even strangers who risked everything for her safety. 

"I think that's why I'm here, because there were people all along who helped,” said Albin. 

Albin is now almost 82 years old and lives in the Clearwater area. She still continues to share her story as she believes that for survivors like her, it’s important to keep the history of what really happened alive.