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Oral history interview with Ina Sagen Zigelman

Oral History | Accession Number: 2015.169.1 | RG Number: RG-50.106.0242

Ina Zigelman (née Sagenkahn), born on June 4, 1925 in Memel (Klaipeda), Lithuania, discusses her childhood with her father, a shopkeeper, and her sister Hannah, who was three years older than her; her very large extended family; speaking German at home and learning modern Hebrew after school; enjoying swimming, skating, and ice skating; attending a German public school for four years then to a private high school; having no restrictions between 1933-1938; her father selling his business and leaving after Hitler occupied Czechoslovakia and going to Kovno, Poland (Kaunas, Lithuania); getting affidavits from her mother’s relatives in the United States; going to Kovno and renting two rooms from Jacob Gens (later head of the Vilna Ghetto); attending the Sholom Aleichem Yiddish school; hoping to get visas to go to San Francisco, but the American consulate being closed; the German invasion; her uncle and cousins getting killed; her father hiding in the apartment while she hid in the basement after putting sandbags against the windows during bombings; refusing to wear the yellow star; being ordered into the ghetto August 15, 1941; dismantling radios and other appliances so the Germans would only get damaged goods; her mother being in a bad emotional state; her family of four living in one room with no plumbing; getting a certificate showing she was only 13 so she could stay home, which allowed her to work in her mother’s place; shoveling dirt and loading bricks 14 hours daily at an airport; being involved in the underground teaching young children at night; repairing German soldiers’ uniforms and stealing the insignias to give to the resistance; not going to the partisans as she was afraid her mother would tell someone; losing many friends and relatives at the Ninth Fort; her father losing his eye after being beaten trying to protect some children and then being sent to Dachau; being deported to Stutthof in the summer of 1944; living with nuns and Romanies; sewing numbers on clothing; going by boat from Danzig to Elbing and walking through forests to a village named Truntz; sleeping in tents and digging anti-aircraft trenches; getting strafed by Russian planes in January 1945; being liberated in Torun, Poland by a Russian Jew from Kiev, Ukraine on a white horse on January 23, 1945; sleeping in a railroad station in Alexandrov; being ordered by the Russians to guard cattle, oxen, and horses in a village; getting to the Red Cross Headquarters in Munich, Germany and learning that her father was in Feldafing; she, her sister, and her mother joining her father in September 1945; getting married and celebrating with a can of pineapple juice; working for the UNWRA as an interpreter beginning in December 1945; meeting General Eisenhower when he visited her office; arriving in New York, NY on May 24, 1946 on the S.S. Marine Perch; settling in California; feeling that she lost her teenage childhood; and going back to Kovno, Ninth Fort, Ponary Forest, and Stutthof and finding it painful.

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.
Ina Zigelman
Gail Schwartz
interview:  2015 May 29
1 digital file : WAV.
Record last modified: 2020-03-26 09:55:05
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