Cecylia Ziobro Thibault has a vivid image of the American soldier who freed her from the hovel underneath a factory, the place where her mother was forced into slave labor by the Nazis. He had olive skin and brown hair, she said, and a trimmed, thin mustache. His uniform was starched and clean. It stood out amid the squalor of war that she had become used.
“He looked like an angel from heaven,” she said. “He looked so brave.” Thibault said that when she sees people with a similar mustache, she is always sure to tell them that she likes it. And sometimes she shares her story, bringing tears to their eyes.
Thibault has dedicated her book, “Trapped in a Nightmare: The Story of an American Girl Growing Up in the Nazi Slave Labor Camps” to the soldier and to her mother, an American who grew up in Poland and survived the horrors of the labor camps with her. Thibault wrote the memoir with her son, Robert Thibault, a long-time Peachtree Corners resident.
Residents can hear Thibault tell her story first-hand, since she is visiting the area to give a series of talks about her experience.
Hitler invaded Poland when Thibault was just five years old. At six, she was forced into a packed cattle train with her mother and taken to a labor camp, a large farm in the German countryside. She said her mother was singled out for the hard work of the farm because she was young and hearty—but her health rapidly deteriorated with just soup and bread to eat.
Thibaults memories of the camp are horrific, as expected. She was left to fend for herself much of the time and violently bullied by the German children, she said.
She remembers an incident when her mother spoke up to the foreman about the conditions at the camp. She heard her mother scream and found her mom’s face, “full of blood,” making her scream even louder. But Thibault’s mother just ushered her away and got back to work.
Cecylia’s son Robert Thibault wrote the book with his mother. He said that in the course of his research, he became acquainted with the librarian at Atlanta’s William Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum, who is a wealth of information because her records are a stopping point for many looking for answers.
The librarian was convinced that Thibault was able to survive after she became less “productive,” because of her American heritage, which was noted when she entered Germany. “She said usually you went to a concentration camp and were killed if you couldn’t work,” Mr. Thibault said.
After spending time at a smaller farm in forced labor, then moving on to a factory, Ms. Thibault and her mother were freed with American tanks throwing candy down to the children, then directing them to a survivor’s camp, where they spend three years waiting to come to the U.S.
Ms. Thibault said her initial motivation for writing the book was hearing people saying that the Holocaust was a myth. “That got on my nerves,” she said. “I want them to know that six million people died. Thinking about their cries from the grave gives me chills.”
Sunday, Nov.13, 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at in Peachtree Corners.
Sunday, Nov. 13, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at The Mall Of Georgia in Buford.
Saturday, Nov. 19, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Cumberland Mall in Atlanta.