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