Sigi and Hanka Siegreich, both in their 90’s, have been married for 72 years and are still madly in love. Where did such a remarkable and beautiful love first take root? Inside the walls of a Nazi slave-labor camp in Poland.
Sigi still remembers the moment when he first laid eyes on his future bride, saying “I lost my mind.” The two were in the Czestochowa camp, it was New Years Eve 1944, and Sigi was 21 years old. “When I saw her, the whole world was turning around me. I saw a pair of beautiful eyes and I heard bells ringing.” He described Hanka’s smile as being unlike anything he’d ever seen in his life. He snuck her a quick kiss on the cheek that night.
Hanka says he still remembers the kiss. She remembers putting her hand on her cheek, wanting to hold Sigi’s kiss there forever. “At that time, the people in the camp were terrible.” she said. But not Sigi. “He was very gentle.”
But for all of Sigi’s gentleness, he possessed a heart that was incredibly brave. He was forced, in the camp, to make bullets for the Nazi German army. He would secretly make the bullets too small, so they would jam in the guns, and sabotage the Nazi’s plans. One day, shortly after meeting Hanka, they discovered what he was doing. When he heard that the Gestapo were looking for him, he ran and hid in an abandoned construction site. Hanka was the only person who knew where he was.
Hanka also risked her life to occasionally smuggle food from her small bread ration to Sigi. But luckily for them both, Sigi wasn’t in hiding for long. 18 days after their first meeting, the camp was liberated. “They’re gone,” she told Sigi. “We are free.” The couple got married the very next day and a year later they had their first child, Evelyne.
Fellow inmates from their labor camp witnessed their original marriage signing, and– 50 years later– Sigi, Hanka, and those same inmates reunited in Australia to celebrate the couple’s 50 year reunion, and their survival all those years ago.
It’s been over 20 years since Sigi and Hanka renewed their 50th anniversary vows, but the two are still as in love as they were that first day they locked eyes in the midst of the Holocaust.
“She charmed me.” Sigi says of his bride. “The rest, is history.”
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