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Oral history interview with Madeleine Sigel

Oral History | Accession Number: 2015.170.1 | RG Number: RG-50.106.0241

Madeleine Bartfeld Sigel (born February 16, 1924 in Vienna, Austria) discusses her childhood; her father’s delicatessen and his management of a theater and a cabaret; attending a public elementary school then a private girls’ school; taking a religion class with the other Jewish students; her parents not being religious or Zionists, though they celebrated holidays; having a second home in Baden, Austria; feeling independent and not experiencing antisemitism initially; not going to see Hitler in March 1938; Nazis taking over her father’s business; furniture being taken away from their apartment; Jewish teachers leaving her school and the school permanently being closed to Jews; her father hiding to avoid being arrested and her mother having to scrub sidewalks, which affected her emotionally; going to the United States embassy to get forms and forging her father’s signature; getting a quota number and leaving in December 1938 for Venice, Italy; going to Zurich, Switzerland, where her father had moved; getting three visas for Cuba; traveling through France and in May 1939 boarding an English cargo ship with tickets paid for by a Jewish organization; being among 70 Jewish passengers and Cubans, who had fought in the Spanish civil war; getting near Cuba and seeing the St. Louis; being told they could not land and continuing on through the Panama Canal to the west coast of South America, passing Colombia, Peru, and northern Chile; transferring to another ship (the Orduna Orbita); going to Panama and being quarantined for two months; living in the Fort Amador station in the American Zone from May 1939 to September 1940, where the Jewish community came to visit the refugees; gathering around one radio when the war started; her uncle sending affidavits and getting visas to US; sailing to Ellis Island and settling in New York, NY; attending business school and learning cost accounting; getting a secretarial job; getting married in 1947 to Stanley Sigel, a Navy lieutenant and Harvard graduate; moving to Washington, D.C.; still feeling connected to Vienna but not feeling Austrian; and her feelings about Germans.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Madeleine Sigel
Gail Schwartz
interview:  2015 May 22
2 digital files : WAV.
Record last modified: 2020-06-21 15:16:28
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