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By: Becky Seitel

Ilse Nathan was 20, and her sister, Ruth Siegler, was 17 when they, along with almost 1,000 others, were loaded into a cattle car.

“We had no idea where the Germans were taking us. They only told us we were going to a better place,” remembers Ilse.

Facing railroad tracks leading to the unknown, Jews suffered a complete break with their pre-Holocaust lives and lost the basic sense of security, belonging, and identity their communities had provided. Victims had no notion of their impending doom. Orders for deportation came suddenly and swiftly, and many boarded trains to what they thought would be relocation centers somewhere in Eastern Europe.

“We boarded a train with our parents and brother early one morning, not knowing where we were going,” describes Ruth. “The train came to a stop at the concentration camp Terezin (Theresienstadt).

“Ilse and I were the only ones in our family to survive the camps. Fortunately, we remained together through the Holocaust. We looked out for each other and took care of each other. We owe each other our lives.”

“I think that’s how we lived,” adds Ilse. “We always had each other.”

They remain together today, living less than a mile apart, spending time with each other almost daily. Both are active in their synagogue and donate their time to a variety of community organizations.

Sisters. Survivors. Together.