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NORTHERN GERMANY


Siegler said. “Every day we were counted and got up at fi ve in the morning. T ey gave us one bowl for soup. If you were lucky you found a potato in it and piece of black German bread to last you to the next day or whenever you ate again.” One morning Siegler, her mother and her sister were taken to


a barrack guarded by an S.S. offi cer who had lined the women up by their physical condition and selected them to be sent to work. T e women were forced to take their clothing off to the


waist and wait in line to be selected. Siegler said she remembers thinking there was no way she was going to undress in front of the S.S., so she and her sister moved to the back of the line. “T at’s where we lost our mother,” she said. “She was ahead of


us. We later heard she was sent out for work, but we never saw her anymore.” Aſt er inspection, the girls went back to the barracks and saw


their father, who blessed them. “We then said goodbye to my father,” she said. “T at’s the last


time we saw him. My father said if anyone survives, the two of you will survive.” Siegler’s father gave the girls a piece of paper with the address


of a family member in America that her sister hid in her hair, but the paper fell out during an inspection. T e sisters were moved for a few days into a barrack with


Russian prisoners of war that had stone beds and wooden buckets instead of toilets. Siegler said at night they could see the fl ames and smell from the ovens. T ey then realized that other prisoners were being killed and cremated. In midsummer of 1944, the girls were transported along with


800 others to Praust, Poland, to clear runways for German planes. “As we arrived there, they put us on a mound of dirt way up


high, and we had to line up and the S.S. are standing in front of us with rifl es and they are pointing at us,” she said. “I said here we come from Auschwitz and now they shoot us. “I remember saying a special prayer to God to save us and they


turned around and leſt . T ey had made a joke out of us. T at’s how we were introduced to Praust.” In February 1945, with the Russian troops advancing, the 800


women at the Polish camp were given wooden and cloth shoes stuff ed with newspaper for insulation, a coat and a blanket and were driven on a four-week death march. During the four weeks Siegler said the women stopped in a


barn where many who were sick with typhoid fever, diarrhea and other illnesses died. She and he sister claimed a corner in the straw and huddled together. When they leſt the barn, they were not too far from the Baltic Sea. Out of the 800 girls, 50 remained. “We saw a sign that said ‘Baltic Sea 4 km [2 miles],’” she said.


“T ey intended to drive us into the sea, not to have any proof of what the Germans had done. “It was that night that Russians were so close and the S.S.


offi cer said, ‘If your life is dear to you, you go wherever you want to. I don’t want to be caught by the Russians.’ And he leſt


24| ALPINE LIVING 2011


us right there.” Siegler and her sister ran to a nearby cornfi eld and decided


to knock on the door of a nearby farmhouse hoping to stay in a barn or with the cattle to get out of the cold. Siegler said she remembers a weak Hungarian girl who was


with them on the march laying in a ditch, and the girl called out to Siegler and her sister to take her with them. “She said to us, ‘Ilse — Ruth, take me with you,’ and we


couldn’t,” she said. “Still to this day, I see that face.” T e door of the farmhouse was opened to a room full of S.S.


offi cers who were guarding French prisoners of war. T e guards told the girls to go lay in the bedroom, but they refused and curled up in a corner against a cabinet.


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