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Ruth Gabriele Silten

Berlin, Germany

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 my grandfather to sell his factory and pharmacy for very little money to an "Aryan" German. After that, my father decided we should move to Amsterdam where it was safer for Jews. I was 5 years old and wanted to stay in Berlin. I didn't understand why I had to leave my toys and friends. In Amsterdam I had to learn a whole new language when I began elementary school, but I soon began to make new friends there.

1940-44: In May 1940 Germany invaded the Netherlands. I remember being frightened seeing the German troops march into the city. When I went to school I had to wear a yellow Jewish star, and I couldn't play with my Christian friends anymore. When I was 9, my family was deported to a camp in the eastern Netherlands called Westerbork. There, during the day while my parents worked, I learned to steal things to barter for food. A year later we were sent to the Theresienstadt ghetto. In the ghetto I 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.

 

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