Miriam Galperin Bell was born on October 10, 1930 in Kaunas (Kovno) Lithuania. She was one of seven children and spoke Yiddish, Hebrew, and Lithuanian. Raised in a middle class family, her father, Chaim Galperin, was in the transportation business. Then, in 1941, German SS Nazis occupied Lithuania. The Nazi soldiers began terrorizing the neighborhood and shooting everyone on-site. Her father was one of the victims, as he was shot and killed right next to her when she way only eleven.

She was taken to a ghetto in Slobatka, not far from Kovno. She witnessed torture and murder all around her but told herself, “I will never let them kill me. I will not give up.” She was eventually put onto a cattle train that ended up in Estonia. At the camps she was able to meet her brother and they were both helped by Dr. Klibanov, the camp doctor from her hometown. She helped the doctor during her brief stay at the hospital; this made her want to be a nurse.

Many months later she was taken to Stutthof concentration camp in Poland with other women in Estonia, on a ship that was originally intended to be sunk. As the Russians advanced, Miriam and the women couldn’t stay in Stutthof anymore, so the Germans took them to a slave labor ammunitions factory in Hamburg. Later she was taken to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and stayed for three months before being liberated by the British army. Afterwards, she went from Ukraine to Berlin to Munich and the UNRA special orphanage camp. She was sent with 300 others to Montreal, where she met her husband, a survivor from Bucharest, Romania; it was where she started her life with her husband and had two daughters.