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Gabriele was the only child of Jewish parents living in the German capital of Berlin. Her grandfather owned a pharmacy and a pharmaceuticals factory, where Gabriele's father also made his living.
1933-39: In 1938 the Nazis forced Ruth's grandfather to sell his factory and pharmacy for very little money to an "Aryan" German. After that, her father decided they should move to Amsterdam where it was safer for Jews. She was 5 years old and wanted to stay in Berlin. She didn't understand why she had to leave her toys and friends. In Amsterdam Ruth had to learn a whole new language when she began elementary school, but she soon began to make new friends there.
1940-44: In May 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands. Ruth remembers being frightened seeing the German troops march into the city. When she went to school she had to wear a yellow Jewish star, and she couldn't play with her Christian friends anymore. When she was 9, her family was deported to a camp in the eastern Netherlands called Westerbork. There, during the day while her parents worked, Ruth learned to steal things to barter for food. A year later Ruth and her family were sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto. In the ghetto she was hungry all the time.
Twelve-year-old Gabriele and her parents were liberated from Theresienstadt in May 1945. That June, the Silten family returned to Amsterdam, where they resettled.
Henny's parents met soon after her father emigrated from Russia. Henny was the first of the Jewish couple's three children. Frankfurt was an important center of commerce, banking, industry and the arts.
1933-39: After the Nazis came to power, they began to persecute a large number of "undesirable" groups, including Jews, Roma (Gypsies), gay men, people with disabilities, and left-wing politicians. After 1938, as one way of identifying Jews, a Nazi ordinance decreed that "Sara" was to be added in official papers to the first name of all Jewish women. Twenty-four-year-old Henny was working as a shop assistant, and was living with her family in Frankfurt.
1940-44: In early 1940 Henny was arrested in Frankfurt and deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for women. On the back of her prisoner photo was written: "Jenny (sic) Sara Schermann, born February 19, 1912, Frankfurt am Main. Unmarried shopgirl in Frankfurt am Main. Licentious lesbian, only visited such [lesbian] bars. Avoided the name 'Sara.' Stateless Jew."
Henny was among a number of Ravensbrück prisoners selected for extermination. In 1942 Henny was gassed at the Bernburg killing facility.
Arthur was born to a Jewish family in Germany's largest port city, Hamburg. His father owned a small factory that manufactured rubber stamps. In the early 1930s, Hamburg was home to the fourth largest Jewish community in Germany, which had numerous social and cultural institutions.
1933-39: By 1935 conditions for Hamburg's Jews were bad. Arthur's family was moved to another part of town and in 1938, the Nazis seized his father's business. On national holidays many German citizens unfurled red, white and black Nazi flags to show patriotism. Arthur and his sister made their own "Nazi" flag and hung it out of the window. But his parents got angry with them and reeled it back in. Arthur and his sister didn't understand why they couldn't support their own country.
1940-44: In 1941 Arthur was deported 800 miles east to Minsk ghetto in the USSR. The ghetto there was vast, with 85,000 people. He was put to work in a nearby German army base, cutting peat for fuel. The soldiers were regular army and didn't abuse the prisoners as badly as did the SS. Walking to and from our labor site, he would push the guard's bicycle for him. Food was so scarce that one day he locked Arthur in the potato cellar so he could steal potatoes for him. He let Arthur take some for himself. They smuggled them back to camp on his bike.
After two years in Minsk, Arthur was deported to various camps in Poland where he was put to work welding planes. He was liberated while on a forced march to the Dachau camp in 1945.
Amid intensifying anti-Jewish measures and the 1938 Kristallnacht ("Night of Broken Glass") pogrom, Johanna's family decided to leave Germany. They obtained visas for Albania, crossed into Italy, and sailed in 1939. They remained in Albania under the Italian occupation and, after Italy surrendered in 1943, under German occupation. The family was liberated after a battle between the Germans and Albanian partisans in December 1944.
Edward was born to a Jewish family in Hamburg. In 1935, the Nuremberg Laws prohibited marriage or sexual relations between German non-Jews and Jews. Edward was then in his mid-twenties. Edward was arrested for dating a non-Jewish woman. Classified as a habitual offender, he was later deported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin. He was forced to perform hard labor in construction projects. Edward had married shortly before his imprisonment, and his wife made arrangements for their emigration from Germany. Edward was released from custody in September 1938 and left Germany. He stayed with relatives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and later immigrated to the United States.
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