Memories of family, loss still clear for Holocaust survivor

von Hans-Dieter Arntz

Unter der Überschrift „My Father's Blessing“ – Eine jüdische Auschwitz-Überlebende aus dem Kreis Euskirchen berichtet über ihr Schicksal wies ich auf vor einigen Wochen auf das Buch von Ruth Scheuer Siegler hin, das auch der „Euskirchener Wochenspiegel“ am 27. Juli 2011 seinen Lesern vorstellte. Es handelt vom Schicksal der Voreifeler Jüdin Ruth Scheuer, die mit ihrer Schwester Ilse den Holocaust und Auschwitz überleben konnte.


Den Holocaust überlebt


Anlässlich der Buchvorstellung interviewte der Redakteur Gregg Garrison von „The Birmingham News“ die rüstige Autorin. Die Publikation „My Father`s Blessing“ kann beim Birmingham Holocaust Education Center in Alabama /USA unter der Email-Anschrift für $15 plus Porto bestellt werden.


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Memories of family, loss still clear for Holocaust survivor

by Gregg Garrison

in:The Birmingham News, ALABAMA, July 24, 2011

MOUNTAIN BROOK, Alabama -- The concentration camp tattoo on her left forearm has faded with time, but for Holocaust survivor Ruth Scheuer Siegler, everything else remains clear.

"I have all these memories," Siegler, 84, said this week in an interview at her Mountain Brook home. "I remember everything."

Siegler and her family rode in a cattle car by train to Auschwitz II (Birkenau), the largest concentration and extermination camp operated by Nazi Germany during World War II. "Being together like animals, that's always vivid in my memory," she said. It was one of five Nazi camps where she was held prisoner.


Ruth Scheuer Siegler

Holocaust survivor Ruth Scheuer Siegler of Birmingham has written a newly published memoir, "My Father's Blessing," which recounts life in Nazi Germany and incarceration in five different concentration camps. The book includes family pictures and documents. She poses for a picture in her home, July 21, 2011. (The Birmingham News/Tamika Moore)

Her father, who raised cattle and was a kosher butcher in their mostly Catholic village of Sinzenich, Germany, died at Auschwitz. The last time he saw Ruth and her sister Ilse in the camp, he held his hands over them and said a traditional Hebrew prayer of blessing for them. The daughters also were separated from their mother and brother there, and never saw them again.

Ruth and Ilse Scheuer were assigned to camp work details, and endured brutality, hunger and a forced march in February 1945, but survived until the Russian army arrived and their Nazi guards scattered. Ruth and Ilse each weighed 80 pounds at the end of the war.

They made their way to Nebraska to live with relatives who had settled in America, and who had a trunk of photographs and other possessions sent ahead by the Scheuer family as they tried to escape Adolf Hitler's plan to kill the Jews of Europe. The Scheuers had legal papers ready to help them leave for America through Holland, but their documents were destroyed when the Germans bombed Rotterdam on May 14, 1940.

A few years after the war, Ruth and Ilse married and settled in Birmingham. Ilse and her husband, Walter Nathan, opened a clothing store in Homewood called Penny Palmer, which remained in business until 1986. Ruth worked there for years, but now is a familiar face at Gus Mayer at The Summit, where she works part-time in the shoe department on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Most of her customers don't know her dramatic story of survival, but Siegler has written a detailed and heartbreaking memoir, "My Father's Blessing," full of family pictures that were saved and papers that document her journey.

"It has to be told," said Siegler, who will sign copies of her book today from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center, 2222 Arlington Ave., in the Bayer Properties Building. "You have to keep it alive. Prejudice is sad. It's a bad thing. It can happen again."

Ann Mollengarden, coordinator for the Birmingham Holocaust Education Committee, helped Siegler with her book. She said there are 18 Holocaust survivors living in Birmingham; a few are still able to visit schools and tell their story.

Siegler returned to her hometown of Sinzenich in 2007, walked past her old home, and reunited with childhood friends. Nazi intimidation transformed the town in the 1930s. The Catholic school she attended had to take down a crucifix and replace it with a picture of Hitler. A 1936 photograph of her in the classroom with Dominican nuns and the Hitler picture on the wall is included in the book.

"There are always good people," Siegler said of people in her town. "They were scared."

The creeping Nazi persecution of Jews exploded on Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass," Nov. 9, 1938, when synagogues were burned, Jewish businesses vandalized and Jews including her father were picked up by German secret police and put in jail.

Siegler was raised in a devout Jewish home that said nightly prayers, and those prayers sustained her through years of misery, she said. She pulled out an old book labeled "Deutche Gebete," or "German Prayers," with prayers in Hebrew and German. She carried it to Hebrew school as a child. Her mother wrote Ruth's birthday, April 22, 1927, and other family events on blank pages. "I treasure this," said Siegler, who lives near her sister Ilse and visits her often.

The sisters helped each other survive, and faith helped them through, Siegler said. Her sister agreed. "I always say have faith and hope," said Ilse Nathan, 87. "We leaned on each other and prayed together."

"I had to have something to hold on to, otherwise I couldn't have done it," Siegler said. "Some people lost their faith. I have to say my prayers. As long as you believe, it helps get you through."

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