Edith Sekules

BORN VI­ENNA, JUNE 8, 1916. DIED KIL­KEEL, CO. DOWN, N. IRE­LAND, FE­BRU­ARY 20, 2008, AGED 91.

The Jewish Chronicle - - OBITUARIES -

AREFUGEE FROM the Nazi takeover of Aus­tria, Edith Sekules spent seven years in Siberian camps. Born Edith Men­del, she grew up in a so­phis­ti­cated sec­u­lar fam­ily , en­joy­ing a vi­brant Jewish cul­ture. She mar­ried Kurt Sekules, a ra­dio en­gi­neer, in 1936.

Af­ter the 1938 An­schluss, the cou­ple, now with a baby, Ruth, ap­plied to em­i­grate to Aus­tralia. They were still wait­ing for pa­pers when they were forced out and fled to Es­to­nia, which did not re­quire a visa.

They were stuck there with no money or knowl­edge of the lan­guage when war be­gan in 1939. But Kurt got a job and their son, Wal­ter, was born.

In 1941 the fam­ily was among the tens of thou­sands, in­clud­ing 500 Jews, de­ported by Rus­sia to Siberia. Most died from hunger, cold and dis­ease.

The Sekules sur­vived seven years in three camps, where their third child, Leah, was born. When war ended they jour­neyed 3,350 miles back to Vi­enna.

Find­ing their par­ents had fled to Bri­tain, they set­tled with Kurt’s fam­ily in North­ern Ire­land in 1948. With help from a fel­low-refugee con­tact in the USA, they set up a busi­ness in Kil­keel, Co Down, where their fourth child, Es­ther, was born.

Start­ing with socks, the Kil­keel Knit­ting Mills made own-la­bel knitwear and com­mis­sioned Ar­ran hand-knits.

Edith told her story in Sur­viv­ing the Nazis, Ex­ile and Siberia (2002).

She spoke at Women’s In­sti­tutes and schools and at the first two years of Holo­caust Me­mo­rial Day in North­ern Ire­land. She at­trib­uted her sur­vival to her de­ter­mi­na­tion to save her fam­ily.

Pre­de­ceased by her hus­band in 2001, she is sur­vived by her son and three daugh­ters, ten grand­chil­dren and ten great-grand­chil­dren.

Edith Sekules: Siberian sur­vivor

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