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The British POWs Who Saved a Young Girl from a Nazi Death March

Sarah Hannah Sigler and the British POWs who saved her during the Holocaust (Photo: Yad Vashem)

During the horrors of the Holocaust, so many thousands of Gentiles acted selflessly to save the lives of Jews. Yad Vashem, Israel's official Holocaust memorial, has honored many of these heroes by naming them Righteous Among the Nations. Today, we bring you the story of a group of British soldiers, themselves prisoners of the Nazi regime, who risked their own lives to save the life of a young Jewish girl who lost her mother and sister during a death march:

Sarah Matuson (later Hannah Sarah Rigler) was among the inmates of Stutthof concentration camp who in January 1945 were taken on a death march headed towards the Baltic coast. The group of 1,200 women, including her sister, Hannah, and her mother, Gita, was staggering in the snow, dressed in rags, with only wooden clogs on their feet, with no food and under the heavy blows of the SS guards. Hundreds of women perished on the way and only about 300 reached the village of Gross Golmkau (Golebiewo in Polish) 30 kilometers south of Gdansk.

Sarah's family was from Lithuania. Before she was born, her parents had gone to Palestine, where her sister Hanna was born in 1925. But their immigration to Palestine did not work out for them and the family moved back to Lithuania. Not knowing what the future had in store for them and for Europe’s Jews, they settled in Shavli (Siauliai), where their second daughter, Sarah was born in 1928.

Sarah's father was arrested with a group of other Jews soon after the German occupation in the end of June 1941. He was never seen again. The mother and two daughters were forced into the Shavli ghetto. Despite the difficult conditions and the continued killing operations, they managed to survive until summer 1944, when they were taken with the remaining Jews of Shavli to the Stutthof concentration camp. As the Soviet army approached, they were taken on the death march.

Seeing the hopelessness of their situation, Sarah’s mother pleaded with her daughter to try and escape. It was a painful decision to leave her mother, but finally Sarah decided to try and find some food for them. She succeeded to leave the line of prisoners unnoticed and found refuge in a barn where she collapsed.

It was here that she was found by a group of British prisoners of war. Stan Wells was working on Mrs. Miller’s barn. He belonged to a group of British prisoners of war who had been captured in 1940 in France, and who were transferred to the east, interned in a camp close to the Baltic coast, where they were engaged in various tasks in the German farms of the area. Finding Sarah who was starved and totally exhausted...

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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