Janet Singer Applefield

Becoming Janet: Finding Myself in the Holocaust

A child survivor of the Holocaust and a clinical social worker, Janet Singer Applefield has spent over 40 years speaking with thousands of students, educators, religious groups, government officials, and librarians to raise awareness and understanding of the dangers of prejudice while encouraging audiences to stand up to any kind of discrimination and injustice.

In her engaging and touching memoir, Becoming Janet: Finding Myself in the Holocaust [Cypress House / May 7, 2024], Janet shares her story of trauma, and the trauma experienced by her family, and provides a powerful and personal connection between the past and the present. A testament to the enduring strength of the human spirit, family, and, above all, hope, this is a Holocaust survival story about discovering one’s true self and how that is – and sometimes isn’t – connected to what we see as our “identity.”

As a young child growing up in the Tatra mountains of southern Poland, Gustawa Singer lived an idyllic life. Her parents doted on her, and she was surrounded by loving relatives. When Hitler’s army invaded Poland in 1939, however, everything changed. Gustawa’s carefree childhood days were gone forever. Ultimately, the Nazis killed over 2,500 of the 2,762 Jews in her small hometown. Gustawa’s mother was transported to the death camp at Belzec, and her father was assigned to slave labor. Separated from everyone she had ever known, Gustawa assumed a false name, that of a deceased Catholic girl her own age. 

Amidst the Nazis’ appalling savagery, a compassionate stranger spotted Gustawa after her “caretaker” cousin was arrested by the Gestapo in a raid in Krakow. At terrible risk to her own family, the kindhearted woman took her in and fed, clothed, and loved her. Gustawa survived and was eventually reunited with her father, who had never stopped searching for her. They emigrated to the United States where, believing that the world must never forget the horrors unleashed by Hitler’s regime, the woman who grew to become Janet Singer Applefield dedicated her life to sharing her emotionally charged journey of heartbreak and overcoming the most unthinkable of adversities.

Nowadays, Janet speaks openly about her experiences with thousands of people each year through regular speaking engagements. In 2021, she was invited to tell her story before the Massachusetts State Legislature, on the occasion of the passage of Bill H.692, an act mandating statewide genocide education in all middle and secondary schools. 

At 88 years old, Janet continues to be an avid reader and international traveler. She has three children and five grandchildren and lives south of Boston, MA. 

Becoming Janet: Finding Myself in the Holocaust will be released on May 7, 2024, and will be available at bookstores and online retailers. At its core, it’s a story, at its core, of hope, survival, the forces of good and evil, and, most importantly, love – the love of family, of our background, and oneself.