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1970 - 1983

Thea Bendix Nathan

Biography

One of five children, Thea (whose legal German name was Thekla) was born in Burgsteinfurt, Germany. She married Georg Nathan of Emmerich, Germany in 1920, and the couple made their home in Emmerich. Georg was a prosperous cattle trader and owned considerable land; the family was quite well off, and their life was very good. Thea was a housewife and kept an immaculate German home. The family had “a laundry lady” who came in to do the family wash, also cooking, baking, and even keeping the books for Georg’s business.

But life changed dramatically for the Nathan family on Kristallnacht when their home was ransacked and Georg was jailed briefly. Thea’s daughters could no longer go to local schools; they had to complete their educations in other cities. They returned home when the notice of deportation arrived, as the family had made the decision to stay together.

On December 10, 1941, the Nathan family boarded trains, ending up in the Jewish ghetto in Riga, Latvia. Life in the ghetto was very hard for Thea and her family: it was bitter cold; living conditions were miserable; and there was never enough to eat. While Sophie and Emmi went out every day to work, Thea remained inside to help in the ghetto.

Georg died in the ghetto in May, 1942. Thea and her children, like others, worked to stay alive and to have food to eat. Occasionally they traded things for food, a very dangerous undertaking as prisoners could be shot for bringing food into the ghetto. After the ghetto was emptied of prisoners, the three Nathan women were sent to another camp only to be returned. In Armee Bekleidungs Amt (the army clothing office), Thea separated the dirty clothes that came in from the war front. She cut the elastic off the glasses soldiers had worn, and her daughters took the elastic into town to swap for other things. Meanwhile, all around the three of them, men, women, and children were being taken off and killed.

Thea’s life was spared on three different occasions. Once, she was in the hospital for exhaustion when the SS were sorting out the sick and older people, who were then being picked to be sent out. The soldier had chosen Thea; one of the soldiers, however, spoke up that Thea worked for him, and that she had two daughters who also worked hard for the SS.  Thea’s life was spared.

She was spared again, rushing to a bunker in December of 1922 during a bombing at Liba. Because she had such a nasty cut on her leg, the people sitting at the front of the bunker offered her a place, but Thea wanted to go to the back so that the she, Sophie, and Emmi could stay together. The bomb fell, hit the entrance, and several people were killed.

On liberation day, May 2, 1945, Thea was so ill that she almost had to be carried out to freedom. Thea, Sophie, and Emmi traveled to Denmark and then on to Sweden where Thea recovered.

In April 1946, Thea, Sophie, and Emmi arrived in New York. Thea went to live with a cousin in New York. She alternated her time between her daughters, living part time in Anniston with Sophie and part time in Philadelphia with Emmi. She died in Philadelphia and is buried there.

More Information

Name in US
Thea Bendix Nathan
Name at Birth
Thekla (Terzia) Bendix
Married Name
Thea Nathan
Date of Birth - Note
July 28, 1892
Country of Birth
Germany
City of Birth
Burgsteinfurt
Sibling(s) Name(s)

Oldest to Youngest:
Moritz Bendix
Louis Bendix
Paula Bendix Katzmann (Hermann)
*Thea Bendix

Spouse(s) Name(s)

Georg Nathan (Emmerich, Germany)
(1880, Emmerich, Germany – 1942, Riga Ghetto)
Married October 20, 1920 in Burgsteinfurt, Germany

Religious Identity (Prewar)
Jewish
Religious Identity (Postwar)
Jewish
Ghetto(s) / Year(s)

Riga, Latvia 1941-1943

ABA (Armee Bekleidungs Amt.) in Riga 1943-1944

Liepaja (Libau), Latvia 1944-1945

Camp(s) / Year(s)

Kaiserwald, Latvia 1943

Fuhlsbuettel Prison in Hamburg (subcamp of Neuengamme) 1945

Kiel, Germany 1945

Forced (Death) Marches

Fuhlsbuettel (Hamburg) to Kiel, Germany
April 12-15, 1945

Liberated By / Date
Fuhlsbuettel (Hamburg) to Kiel, Germany April 12-15, 1945
Location of Liberation

Kiel, Germany (Arbeitserziehungslager Nordmark)

DP Camp(s) / Year(s)

Malmo, Sweden 1945
Holsbybrunn, Sweden 1945-46

Year / City / Ship to US
April 8, 1946/ New York / SS Drottningholm
Date Moved to Alabama
1946
Alabama City of Residence
Anniston
Date of Death
November 6, 1983
City of Death
Philadelphia
City of Burial / Cemetery
Philadelphia / Montefiore Cemetery
Dates Lived in Alabama
1946-1980

Resources