Before the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, Gabriella Karin had a normal life, living with her parents and her grandmother. Her parents owned a local delicatessen store in Bratislava. In 1938, after hearing about the violence of Kristallnacht, Gabriella’s mother wanted to emigrate, but the family did not have the financial means to do so. Shortly after the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939, Slovakia was granted independence under a Nazi approved government. During this time, Gabriella’s mother began working for the underground.
The family’s deli was next to the local police station, and members of the police force would often visit and were friendly with Gabriella’s family. Utilizing her relationship with the police, her mother was able to access the deportation lists and would pass the information to the Jewish underground and warn the listed families. With the help of false papers, Gabriella Karin spent 3 years hiding in a Catholic convent before her family decided to hide together. Aided by a young lawyer named Karol Blanar, eight people, including Gabriella and her family, hid in an apartment in Bratislava. They stayed there for nine months until the Russian liberation on April 4th 1945. In addition to providing food and shelter, Karol Blanar also brought books for Gabriella so she would have something to do during the day. She spent much of the nine months in hiding reading and educating herself, which had a profound impact on her life after the war. Because of his act of courage, Karol Blanar was later awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.
After the war, Gabriella went to school for design, pattern making, and business administration before meeting her husband, Ofer Karin, who was also a survivor. They married and moved to Israel to start a new life. A few years later, with their two year old son, they decided to move to Los Angeles. Gabriella began sculpting and designing art in the States. Recently, she began incorporating her Holocaust experiences into her work, and it remains a definitive theme in her art today.
Surviving the Holocaust: Stories of Life
An ongoing project of KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles
and Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in Pan Pacific Park