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Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Twins who survived Holocaust describe their parents’ courage in Bergen-Belsen: "They were just determined to keep us alive"

The Hess family, like millions of Jews, was taken from their home in Amsterdam by the Nazis in 1943.

After spending time at Westerbork, a transport camp in Holland, the family of four was sent by train in 1944 to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp where more than 50,000 people were killed — including Anne Frank — twins Steven and Marion Hess, just 6 at the time, credit their parents for keeping them together.

“The Holocaust seems like ancient history, so we have to find a way for it not to be that, for it to be a lasting lesson,” Marion Ein Lewin told CBS News.

Steven and Marion are believed to be the last surviving twins of the Holocaust.

“They never ever gave up,” Steven Hess said of his parents. “And they were just determined to keep us alive. The food at Bergen-Belsen was kohlrabies, turnips, about 600 calories to keep you alive.”

Their father was assigned to heavy labor. Eight decades later, they still remember their mother’s sacrifice.

“She realized that my father needed a lot more nourishment than she did,” Steven said. “And even though we were all starving, she gave half of her portions to my father…to keep him going.”

“They had a real sense of inner courage and strength,” Steven added.

The twins, now 85 years old, hope their story can be a lesson of remembrance. Marion says the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas militants on Israel is “something that makes you watch television morning, noon and night.”

“There’s got to be a better way, that it can’t always be kind of a scorecard of how many get murdered and how many get displaced,” Marion said. “I hope that something will happen where, when these conflicts happen, that there’s a real kind of effort to have a long-term solution, you know, where both sides feel like they have a chance for a future.”

The Hess family found their future in the U.S., arriving by boat in 1947.

“Our parents got us up early to pass the Statue of Liberty,” Steven said. “In later life, it became a very precious memory.”

“Whenever we see the Statue of Liberty, it rings bells, because that was the symbol of our freedom, and the ability for us to have a new life,” Marion added.

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