When Sabina Miller awoke from typhoid fever in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw she had a vivid memory. It was of her mother standing at her bed in the one room the family of six shared, telling her: “You will survive.”

Sitting in her flat in West Hampstead, London, Sabina, now 92, does not know if it was a hallucination. She does know when she came round. After 18 days of fever, both parents were dead of typhoid.

That memory sustained her in the ghetto “where people fell ill very quickly, were hungry and you walked in the middle of the street where they were bodies, covered with newspaper, dead”.

It spurred her on when she fled the ghetto – her identifying armband hidden under a raincoat – to fight a desperate and lonely battle for survival during Europe’s darkest days.

And it remains with her today as she prepares to take part in national commemorations to mark Holocaust Memorial Day and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Miller fled to an aunt in the country with her youngest brother, David. An older sister, Ester, tried to make it to the Russian border. The oldest brother, Chaim, stayed behind. Despite her efforts, no trace of her siblings has ever been found.

Small acts of human kindness in this time of terror contributed to her survival. On the Polish farm near her aunt’s, where she worked with other Jewish girls, an overseer warned them: “The lorries are coming for you. I don’t want to see you dead. Run to the woods.” She did, with another Jewish girl, Ruska. There was the villager who showed them a hole abandoned by the Partisans in which to hide. “We had to slip down and slide in, with just enough room for the two of us to lie down,” she said. It was winter, 1942-1943, and so bitter she got frostbite in her feet.

Aged 20, louse-ridden and starving, she survived by begging from nearby homes at night. She and Ruska took it in turns, then one night Ruska did not return. Sabina never discovered why but she had no option other than to carry on alone.

And there was the woman who, on seeing Sabina at her door, immediately ordered the men from the house and gave her a bath. “I will never forget that kindness,” she said.

Luck contributed, too. Polish girls were being called up for enforced labour on German farms. At one house a mother whose daughter had been so summonsed asked Sabina if she would take her place. She agreed, and was given slippers for her damaged feet and a little case with some clothes.

Why would she want to go to Germany? “Because it was the only place I felt I could be safe,” she said. “Once I am there, no one will ask me who I am, what I am. They would accept me as a Polish girl.”

She was transported to Warsaw for processing, under the identity of Kazimira Kuc.

The Germans rejected her because of her damaged feet, but she persuaded them to let her go to hospital. There, she confided in a Polish doctor: “I am Jewish. I’m in trouble.” He kept her there for six weeks before she reported back. Again, because of her feet, she was rejected and told to go home. But she had no home.

The doctor suggested a plan. She would study the women being sent to Germany and approach the most upset. She would offer to take their place. To avoid suspicion she would pretend her motivation was money, demand payment and tell them the Germans were sure to send her back anyway, because her eyesight was too bad. Her eyesight was perfect, but the lie was plausible enough for a woman to take up the offer and hand over her crucial identity papers.

But Sabina’s troubles were not over, and officials who suspected she was Jewish sent her to Pawiak, the notorious Warsaw prison where political prisoners and Jews were held.

Three times she was interrogated by the Gestapo but continued to deny her faith. The other Polish women crammed with her into cell number nine, taught her the Catholic mass to help her. She never broke under questioning and after several weeks imprisonment, was finally sent to Germany as a Polish farm girl. It was late 1943, and she remained in Germany under her false identity until Poland’s liberation in 1945.

Sabina married Arthur, a Polish soldier who, because he was attached to the British army, had the right to resettle in the UK. Starting with a market stall, they built a fashion retail and wholesale business, had two children, and today she is a grandmother of six and great-grandmother of four.

Of her siblings, she has no news, despite trawling records in Poland and Israel. She believes they perished. The only possession she has from her childhood is a red tartan cardigan, given to her by her mother, which remained with her throughout.

The small bag she took with her from the ghetto was stolen from her hole deep in the woods. Inside were photographs and a postcard from her sister, Ester, who was trying to flee to Russia, and which arrived at her aunt’s house in Sokolow.

It read: “I am in the train. I don’t know where I am being taken to. Please God you will survive and I hope someone will pick up the card and send it to you.”

Sabina believes that, like many others being transported to the concentration camps, Ester threw it unstamped from the train in the hope someone would find it and post it. It seems they did.

Sabina was determined to share her story through the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, “because I feel the world should know about this. That the world should learn. Something like this just cannot be forgotten.”

“I wanted to survive,” she says. “I wanted it for my family, to be able to say who we were, what we did, what we gave. I wanted to do this. And I just wanted to live.”