Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lifetime of love begins in concentration camp

Sigi Siegreich was 21 years old in 1944. He'd spent his teenage years a prisoner at the Czestochowa concentration camp in Poland. During the day, he worked in a munitions workshop, making bullets for the Nazi army. He was secretly making bullets to small for the gun barrels.  "I had no interest in girls," he said, "because I was a skeleton." At least not until New Year's Eve, 1944.

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That's when he first saw 19-year-old Hanka. She was also wasting away, but Sigi says her eyes were so beautiful that he lost his mind. "The whole world was turning around me," he said, "and I heard bells ringing." They talked, and he could not help giving her a kiss on the cheek. She still recalls that first kiss, remembering that "he was very gentle." Then they learned the Gestapo was looking for Sigi, since he had sabotaged the bullet factory. He hid in a nearby abandoned construction site. Only Hanka knew where he was. She risked her life to keep him alive, smuggling him small pieces of her tiny bread ration. Then one night she came with a smile and open arms. The Russian Army had liberated the camp. "The Nazi's are gone," she told him. "We are free!" The next day they got married, but never had a proper wedding ceremony until their 50th anniversary, where they wed again in their daughter's back yard. The couple, now 91 and 93, have their gravestones prepared, side by side. The inscription also commemorates their immediate family who were never given a grave. "We are inviting the souls of our exterminated family to rest in our grave," Hanka explained.

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