Segal (van Leeuwen), Sandra
London (England), Bergen Belsen, Amersvoort, Westerbork
Sandra (Sunny) was born in London, England on July 8, 1939 and visited Holland when she was six weeks old. She and her family were not able to leave and were caught in Europe for the duration of the war.
Her family (Father: Isaac (born in Poland), Mother Yanka Rosalia (born in Hungary), Brother Levy and Brother Wolf) went into hiding, but were found by the Nazis in November, 1942. She was then three years old.
As they were being taken away, Sunny asked her mother if they would be given kosher food to eat and the Rabbi who was hidden with them answered saying that he gave his permission to eat non-kosher food.
They were taken to Bergen Belsen but didn’t stay long. She was herded to Amersvoort where she lived for one month and then to Westerbook for three months. Ann Frank was there with her, but on the opposite side of the camp.
Hitler had a treaty with England that any natural citizen and family could remain alive. They were held as a bargaining tool, so Hitler could eventually get back the German prisoners held by the English.
Sunny and her family did not wear uniforms. She remembers the showers and the delousing and, because she was so hungry, eating paper to fill her stomach. Her brother Levy was eighteen months old.
When they stood in the lineup, French women and children arrived and because the French were not accustomed to hunger pains, the prisoners would barter their food for the French women’s clothes.
Sunny’s father could visit in the evening but was smacked with rubber hoses going in and out of their compound. She vividly remembers seeing an elderly woman who could barely climb down from her high bunk, being beaten to death as well as a baby being decapitated.
Her mother was chained to other women to serve the prisoners a small portion of soup, mostly water, three times a day. When the Red Cross came to inspect, ham would be thrown into the broth.
Her mother had to make two hundred sixty beds every single day. When Sunny’s brother had an earache and was screaming, her mother was warned that if he did not stop, he would be killed.
In Amersvoort, she saw her father pushing a wheelbarrow, picking up the dead, although he never spoke of this to her. Her mother had edema and her leg was swollen so she was put on a train to be gassed. At that moment, there were planes overhead and the Nazis began to run, telling the prisoners to run into the mountains and lay down.
She remembers there being potato starch along the tracks on the way to Troebitz and the Russian soldiers gave her mother some meat.
Her aunt who was hiding was rolled up in some carpeting and stood in a corner.
She was told that Dr. Samson took poison when his family was taken. Also a seventeen year old had to open and close the gas chambers and saw his mother and sister go in.
She had nightmares about being chased by Nazis until she married Meyer Segal. After the war, her father became a butcher and owned the Tel Aviv Kosher Butcher Shop. He died in Holland when she was eight years old and her young brother was only six weeks old. She lost 59 family members during the Holocaust.
Sunny remembers taking down a picture of Hitler hanging in a home given to her family. She and her brother jumped up and down on it, “trying to get out our hatred by jumping on the picture.”
Her brother Lev Van Leeuwen became a rabbi and married Reba from Chicago. They have seven children. Her younger brother Wolf Van Leeuwen has three children and five grandchildren. His father in law’s name is Galilly who made the Uzzi and Galilly guns.
Sunny now teaches Israeli Folk Dancing.
Interviewer: Rabbi Charles Rosenzveig
Length: 1 hour
Format: Video recording