They Survived the Holocaust Together, Died Together, Too

Sisters Ilse Scheuer Nathan and Ruth Scheuer Siegler die 11 days apart in Alabama
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 8, 2022 6:20 PM CDT

Two sisters who together survived the Holocaust then settled within walking distance of each other in Alabama have died 11 days apart. Ilse Scheuer Nathan, 98, died Aug. 23, followed by sister Ruth Scheuer Siegler, 95, on Saturday, per USA Today. Their closeness in Birmingham must've been some comfort. Together with their Jewish family, they'd fled Adolf Hitler's Germany for the Netherlands with plans to travel to the United States but were prevented by the outbreak of war. They moved through numerous Nazi camps before landing in the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. There, the girls were separated from their mother, never to see her again.

They last saw their father in the same camp, before their transfer to another. Their brother would later die at a camp in Germany, according to the Alabama Holocaust Education Center, to which Siegler contributed. It notes the pair worked together throughout the war, carrying bricks and clearing plane runways. They were so close that friends in the camps "would call them each Ilse-Ruth." By February 1945, they were abandoned on a presumed death march, each weighing 80 pounds. They said they contemplated suicide but were saved by the hope that family members might still be alive. Saved by the Russian Army, they reconnected with relatives in the Netherlands, including their mother's brother and sister.

They arrived in the US in July 1946 and both settled in Birmingham after marrying fellow Holocaust survivors in 1949. "They were always together," AHEC education director Ann Mollengarden tells AL.com. "When Ilse died, I think Ruth was ready," she adds. "After the ties they developed trying to survive together, I don't know how you can say they didn't die together." Siegler wrote a 2011 memoir about her experience, dedicated to her children and grandchildren, "so that the suffering I endured, along with millions of others, will never be forgotten," per USA Today. "You have to keep it alive," she said at one time, per AL.com. Otherwise, "it can happen again." (Read more Holocaust survivor stories.)

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