Melbourne Couple Waits for 50th Anniversary to Tell Children They Fell in Love at Nazi Concentration Camp
A couple in Melbourne, Australia didn’t tell their family that they met and fell in love at a Nazi concentration camp until the day of their 50th wedding anniversary, the UK’s Daily Mail reported on Thursday.
According to the report, Sigi and Hanka Siegreich, 92 and 91 respectively, had kept their personal story a secret from their children.
“We grew up surrounded by so much love and we knew they had met in the war but we were definitely surprised by the circumstances,” said Evelyne, the couple’s eldest daughter. “We knew they had some kind of dark secret somewhere, we saw how much they loved us and each other but knew it was strange that we didn’t have grandparents, it was just the four of us. We asked them why we didn’t have other [family members] but they just never wanted to talk about it and would just say they were lost in the war.”
Sigi and Hanka first met on New Year’s Eve in 1944, inside the Czestochowa concentration camp in Poland. Men and women were typically banned from speaking at the camp, but that night, the guards allowed them to spend time together. Sigi recalled looking like a “skeleton” after years of incarceration in the camp, but he said that when he first saw his future wife, “I was struck by lightning. I just knew right then that she was the one. I still get the same feeling when I look at her now. Always, she is beautiful.”
Sigi kissed Hanka on the cheek before they parted ways that night. Though they had spent less than two hours together, they were married 17 days later, mere hours after the camp was liberated by the Red Army. They then moved to Israel, and in 1971 immigrated to Australia with their two daughters.
Evelyne said the horrors of the Holocaust still haunt her parents, who lost hundreds of relatives in World War II, including their own mothers and fathers. She recounted, “Mum still cries in her sleep every night — and dad always has terrible nightmares. He was gifted with a photographic memory but it is a blessing and a curse because he can remember the horrors so clearly.”
She added that her parents maintain a strong love for each other even after all these years. She told the Daily Mail, “He still looks at mum the same way. He will ring me in the morning and say, ‘Look at your mum, she is so beautiful, there is not a drop of makeup on her skin and look how beautiful she is.'”
At their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, Sigi gave a speech in which he spoke of the first time he saw Hanka’s “beautiful brown eyes peering from the top of a bunk.” He said he and his wife, who are now great grandparents, have lived life together as one being. Sigi called Hanka, “a part of my makeup, like my arm she will always be a part of me.”
The couple plan to be buried side-by-side when they die, in plots marked with a message for their lost family members, according to the Daily Mail. The message welcomes the souls of those “exterminated” in the Holocaust to “rest with them.”