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Prized Possessions

By: Becky Seitel

At 11 years old, Ruth Siegler had many favorite toys, a warm and safe home, and a loving family in Sinzenich, Germany.

Her life began to change on November 9, 1938, the Night of Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht. That night, Jewish homes, including Ruth’s, and stores were ransacked in hundreds of German cities, towns, and villages. German mobs destroyed buildings, leaving the streets covered in broken glass. Hundreds of Jews were beaten to death.  Ninety-one Jews were killed and 30,000 Jewish men were arrested, many taken to concentration camps.

Shortly thereafter, Ruth’s family was interred in a refugee/transit camp. From there, they were sent to Terezin (Theresienstadt), a concentration camp in northwest Czechoslovakia.

“I was a frightened teenager who lost everything: my parents, brother, home, toys, all the things that made me feel safe,” she recalls.

“Suddenly, my most prized possession was the bowl I was issued upon entering the camp. Every prisoner was given a bowl, one bowl. It was so important to survival that you kept it with you at all times. If you lost it, or it was stolen, you were not given another. Prisoners then had two choices: steal someone else’s bowl, or wait for someone to die and take their bowl.”