Joanna was born Bela Rosenthal in August 1942 in Berlin, Germany. In June 1943, Bela and her mother were taken from their home and sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto.
In 1944 when Bela was two, her mother contracted TB, leaving Bela orphaned and alone in the camp. Some of the women working in the kitchens would take food to the orphans. On 3rd May 1945, the Red Cross took over control of the camp and Bela was liberated by the Russians.
After liberation Bela, along with five other surviving orphans, was flown to England. After living in a series of children’s homes, Bela was adopted by a Jewish couple living in London. They decided it would be better for Bela to have a less German-sounding name so it was changed to Joanna. Joanna was told not to mention that she was Jewish or that she was born in Germany and to pretend that she was their natural daughter.
Growing up and hiding her identity was hard for Joanna, but she believes that the scale of anti-Semitism was such that Jews were discriminated against in all sections of society, even in England. Joanna went on to marry a Jewish man and has three children and eight grandchildren. She is a magistrate and today speaks regularly about her experiences during the Holocaust.