Siegfried (Sig) Feiger was born on May 6, 1923, in Vienna, Austria, to Frida Fuchter and Isadore Feiger. His mother was born on April 15, 1897, in Klivodyn, Romania, to a large orthodox Jewish family. She had one brother and five sisters, and all were provided with an excellent education. Her family operated a well-known sausage manufacturing business in Cernowitz. Isadore was born in 1890 in Kosov, Poland. He served in the military from 1912-1918 and was wounded during World War I. He settled in Vienna after the war, where he became a scrap metal dealer. He married Frida on July 6, 1921, and they had two sons in addition to Sig: Alfred, born May 26, 1925, and Harry, born January 8, 1930.
The family had a comfortable, middle class life. In addition to their regular schooling, Sig and his brothers had Hebrew lessons three times a week, as well as piano lessons. Jews were a minority in the predominantly Catholic city and Sig frequently encountered anti-Semitic behavior. In March 1938, Nazi Germany incorporated Austria into the Third Reich. The Anschluss was extremely popular and Sig remembers that the parade of German tanks and soldiers down the streets of Vienna went on for hours. The Germans introduced anti-Jewish legislation to exclude Jews from the economic and social life of the city. Sig’s father thought that as a decorated war veteran he might be safe from persecution, but on November 9, during the Kristalllnacht pogrom, he was arrested. Sig, now 16 years old, went into hiding with his paternal uncle for three days and nights in a cellar to avoid arrest. His mother and his two younger brothers went to stay with non-Jewish neighbors. Nazi sympathizers broke into the home and beat several of the inhabitants, though the Feiger’s were not injured. The police who came to investigate included some of the same people who had performed the beatings. Their father had been sent to Dachau concentration camp, but was released in mid-January on the condition that he leave the country. Sig arranged for relatives in the US to send over $500 (US dollars) for each parent to the Italian shipping company which would then give him the needed confirmations. When Isadore was released, he was in extremely poor health because of conditions in the camp and Sig and Alfred had to carry him home.
Isadore went from embassy to embassy trying to get permits for the family to leave. He managed to obtain a work permit for London. They received affidavits of support from an aunt and uncle in Chicago, but the US immigration quota was very restrictive and it was difficult to get on the list. It was especially difficult because they were on the Polish quota list as that was where Isadore was born. Their business was doing poorly and they wanted to close it down, but because they had non-Jewish employees that was not permitted. Sig also registered with a Zionist youth group to go to Palestine. They finally were issued US visas with the assistance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, but they could not travel together because the quotas were based on place of birth and their mother was Romanian which offered the fewest opportunities. The three brothers were able to leave for the United States in March 1939. Their father left for London on a work permit that October; he was interned for several months on the Isle of Man but arrived in the US in September 1940. Their mother was not able to get out of Vienna until September 1941 when friends in New York were able to get her entry to Cuba via Portugal; she arrived in the US in May 1942.
The brothers lived in Chicago with their aunt and uncle until their father arrived. In February 1943, Sig was drafted into the Army; Alfred was drafted six months later. Sig was attached to the Third Army, 9th AF, where he gathered intelligence by monitoring German communications. After the war ended in 1945, he worked for the War Crimes Commission and helped establish evidence against the IG Farben corporation. He received his discharge in November-December 1945. He graduated college and established a plumbing/heating business. In February 1950, he married Miriam and they had two children. His mother passed away, age 74, in 1971. His father died, age 93, in 1983.