Holocaust Remembrance Day: What Happened Almost 80 Years Ago
Over 6,000,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
staff video, USA TODAY
Alabama mourns two German-born sisters who endured the Holocaust to raise families in Birmingham before recently dying just days apart, leaving behind powerful personal stories of tragedy, survival, determination and courage .
Ruth Scheuer Siegler, 95, died on Saturday and Ilse Scheuer Nathan, 98, died on August 23 after living within walking distance of each other for years.
They were barely teenagers when their family fled Hitler’s Germany for Holland with the intention of going to America. But war broke out and the borders were closed. Their father was sent to Westerborka refugee transit camp in 1940, and two years later the family showed up there voluntarily rather than being deported.
Later they were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where their mother died. Their father and brother also died in camps. The girls were shipped to Poland to clear the runways of German planes and were then left to die.
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The sisters told the Alabama Holocaust Education Center they considered committing suicide: “We didn’t want to suffer anymore.
They were found by Russian troops and returned to Holland, where they reconnected with relatives before arriving in the United States in 1946. They married, settled in Birmingham, and raised families.
“They were always together,” Ann Mollengarden, the center’s director of education, told Al.com. “When Ilse died, I think Ruth was ready.”
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Mollengarden says Ruth Siegler’s dedication to the work of the center “shaped what the organization has become today.” She gave speeches and allowed her story to be used for teacher workshops. And the Siegler Fellowship created by his children for his 90th birthday offers students the opportunity to research topics related to Holocaust survivors.
She also wrote a memoir, mostly for family members, with a dedication explaining why.
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“This book is dedicated to my children and grandchildren,” she wrote. “So that the suffering I endured, along with millions of others, will never be forgotten.”