Adjust size of text


Follow us and continue the conversation

Your saved articles

You haven't saved any articles

What are you looking for?

Family lived as Catholics for decades but daughters paid heavy price for the truth

TJI Pick
Print this

Published: 10 November 2020

Last updated: 4 March 2024

Helen Fremont was in her thirties when she learned the truth about her parents’ Holocaust secret

IN FEBRUARY 2002, at the age of 44, Helen Fremont went to see her father’s lawyer. Her father had died three months earlier, and the question of his estate was pending. No suspicion of anything being amiss arose as she perused the will, which was dated October 1998. She and her older sister, Lara, were named equal beneficiaries. But there was something more.

“And then I came to the last page, a single sheet not stapled to anything,” she writes in her acclaimed new memoir, The Escape Artist, Last February. “The word CODICIL was written at the top in bold letters, and… I saw my name in capital letters repeated in a series of paragraphs that stated:

“Delete HELEN FREMONT from each paragraph and replace her with… The final sentence read: For the purposes of this my Last Will and Testament, my daughter, HELEN FREMONT, and her issue, if any, shall be deemed to have predeceased me.”

Fremont, who grew up in a family haunted by secrets, felt that she was imploding.

Eighteen years on, the tears have long since dried. Fremont, now 63, sighs, as someone bearing the burden of growing up in a family fraught with lies, bouts of depression and mental abuse.

In 1999, she published her first memoir, After Long Silence, in which she revealed that she and her sister had discovered that they were Jewish only when they were in their 30s. Their parents, Holocaust survivors, had sold them a cover story of a happy Catholic family. The book became a best seller – but Fremont was disowned.

FULL STORY For decades, they lived as Catholics; then their daughters learned their Holocaust secret (Haaretz)

Photo: Helen Fremont’s parents with her Italian “cousin” Renzo

Keep our publication free:
Support quality journalism with your donation

Since 2015, TJI has provided an independent voice on Australia, Israel and the Jewish World at zero cost to our readers.

Your contribution — big or small — is critical in helping us create a platform for diverse content, fresh voices and regular coverage on issues that matter to you.


The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

Enter site