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Daughter of Holocaust survivors shares parents’ story with younger generations


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    MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As a young girl in Queens, Helen Siegel knew her family was different than others but wasn’t sure how.

“I knew that I didn’t have grandparents. I knew that I didn’t have extended family. I knew that my mother had a tattoo on her arm,” Siegel said. “I heard my mom screaming in the middle of the night.”

It wasn’t until she was left alone one day that she was able to snoop around the house and discovered the history her German-born parents found too painful to share.

“My mother survived Auschwitz concentration camp,” Siegel said. “And she was just about 20 when they were liberated.”

“I looked over my shoulder a lot as a child. My father always believed that it could happen again. He would always say antisemitism didn’t just start with the Holocaust,” Siegel said. “And I realized people don’t know the history.”

Over the years, Seigel has shared what she’s learned from her parents with classrooms across Minnesota and beyond — even joining her now 98-year-old mother on a trip back to Auschwitz in January 2020.

It’s a message with a lesson she says is more important than ever.

“We can stand up. We can do whatever we can within our means to interfere. When someone is being discriminated against or someone in family conversation, when you hear things that are inappropriate or that are offensive, speak up,” Siegel said.

Tuesday night is the beginning of Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. It marks the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the millions of lives lost to antisemitism.

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