Lili Pohlmann was born Lili Stern 1930 in Lvov, where her maternal grandparents lived. Her parents had wanted to emigrate to Palestine, but due to a problem with his knee, Lili’s father could not do agricultural work and became a bank manager in Krakow. Her mother excelled as a dress designer, having been trained by ORT. As a child, Lili loved spending time in the main park in Krakow with her younger brother Uriel, riding scooters, climbing trees and eating freshly baked bread and sausages with her father. She was first attended a Jewish Kindergarden and then to a Catholic Primary school. Lili has very good memories of early Krakow childhood – she recalls glorious skiing holidays in Zakopane and regularly visiting her grandparents in Lvov, especially over Passover.
When the war started, Lili’s mother took her children to Lvov while her husband enrolled to fight in the Polish Army. After the hostilities, Lili recalls her father joining them in Lvov, so traumatised from post-traumatic stress that he was practically unrecognisable.
Lili’s family were confined to the Lvov Ghetto, where all but herself and her mother survived. Their lives were saved thanks to the exceptional courage and humanity of two remarkable non-Jews: one was a German woman, a civil servant attached to the Nazi occupying forces in Lvov - her name was Irmgard Wieth and the other, a Ukrainian, the Greek-catholic, Archbishop Andrey Count Sheptytsky.
On 29th March 1946 Lili arrived in London in the first of the three transports of Jewish children brought over from Poland by British Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld, whose inexhaustible efforts to rescue the remnants of those children who survived gave them a new life and freedom in the UK. A year later Lili was joined in the UK by her mother. They were the only two survivors of an extended family of over 300.
Throughout her life Lili has dedicated herself to building bridges between the Polish - Jewish communities. Her passion for forgiveness and gratitude to the people who both persecuted and saved her, has made her a much sought after speaker, from schools to embassies. In 2007, her tireless work earned her one of Poland's highest accolades, The Commander's Cross of Polonia Restituta, awarded for extraordinary and distinguished service.