Sandra (Sunny) Segal

"Be tolerant of other people's beliefs. Don't hate. Don't be greedy, be kind! Stand up for your beliefs and your rights and those of others."

Name at birth
Sandra (Sara) Van Leeuwen
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Den Haag, Holland
Name of father, occupation
Izak (Yitzchak) Van Leeuwen, Butcher
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Yanka Rozalia (Chana Rochel) Stahl, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, myself and brother Levy
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
Sixteen members of my family survived, four of these are still living.
On July 8, 1939, my mother gave birth to me while my parents were in London, England (they lived in Holland).  They returned to Holland, when I was six weeks old.  
My brother Levy was born October, 1941.  After World War II began, we went into hiding and were betrayed by some Dutch Nazi sympathizers (NSB).  I was just a little over three years old at that time; my brother was thirteen months old. 
 As we were being taken away by the Nazis, I asked my mother where we would find kosher food.  My mother answered that the Rabbi from the city had said we even could eat pig in order to survive!  I remember how hungry I was at that age.

 My family was taken to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and remained there for three years.  During those three years we were moved for short period of times to Westerbork and sometimes to Aamersvoort, but always back to Bergen-Belsen.

 Anna Frank was there in Bergen-Belsen at the same time, but was in a different section of the camp.

 Since I was born in London, England and therefore had a British passport, my family was kept alive as trade-bait for German Templars who were in Palestine, which was controlled by the British.

 This was according to a treaty between the English and the Nazis that Hitler kept until the end of the war.  In April, 1945, when it was clear that Hitler was losing the war, my father, mother, I and my brother, were herded onto a train to be gassed.  While on the train, Allied planes strafed the train.  The Nazis ran away and the prisoners went off the train to lay flat against the hills.  
The Russian Army was nearby and saved the prisoners.  We were billeted among the citizens of Troebitz, a city not far from the tracks.  (This train has become a legend, “The Lost Train to Troebitz.”)
 My family and I did not wear the striped outfits, nor were we branded.  I remember the showers, the delousing, and trying to find anything to eat from the floor, even paper, but there was not much there except for a piece of paper here and there.  I remember that the toilets were out in an open field, no walls, just a wooden trough with holes in it for people to sit on.  
I was almost six years old.  I remember once a Nazi watching me go to the bathroom.  I dug my head into my knees; it gave me the feeling that if I can’t see him, then he couldn’t see me.  

 I remember standing at Appel (roll call) a few times a day, standing still for hours in the terrible heat and freezing snow, rain, half-naked.  

 My mother was chained and yoked with other women to bring back pails of water for the soup that was rationed out to everyone.  When the Red Cross announced that they were coming to inspect, the Germans would put ham and vegetables in the soup, and when they left, the Germans strained it all out for their measly bit of water-soup.  The Germans also had brought in the newcomers into the camp who were not yet starved.  They showed the Red Cross how “well” we were treated. 

 I could see my father pushing a wheelbarrow on the other side of the fence, but it was not until a few years ago that I found out that he was actually taking bodies to the ovens.

 My parents would save their tiny piece of bread to give to the French new-comers in exchange for a sweater, pants, skirt, or underwear for me and my brother as we were outgrowing our clothes.  The French were not yet used to the terrible hunger and would exchange these things for food.

 In the evenings my father was allowed to visit our barrack and as each man went through the door they were beaten with hard rubber hoses on their backs as they were counted on the way in and on the way out.

 My mother also was told to make 260 beds everyday before Appel, even though she was in terrible pain from her swollen legs.

 In April/May 1945, after the war, my parents, my brother and I went back to Holland and were given a house across the street from where we used to live.  In the house there was nothing, nothing except a small picture on the wall of Hitler.

 My mother took it down and put it on the floor and my brother Levie and I were stomping on it real hard to try to break his face to try to get all of our hatred out, which never left us.  

 My father opened up the only kosher butcher shop in the Netherlands with the help of my uncle Moshe, my mother’s brother who survived by hiding in the south of France.
 I lost sixty members of my family!

 After the war, my baby brother, Wolf Ignaz (Zev) Van Leeuwen, was born on April 1947.

 My father died six weeks later after Zev was born, from a heart attack on Shabbat afternoon, shortly before my 8th birthday.

 In July, 1951, my mother took the kids out of Holland because there were rumors that the Nazis would start again.

 America did not let them in, and her uncle advised her mother not to come to Israel as there was no meat and no heat to bring them all back to good health.

 In 1951, America would not let us in.  We had a sponsor, Ruchtje Nussbaum, who vouched for us and we came to Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  I lived in Toronto from July, 1951 until I married Meyer Segal from Detroit in February, 1959.   I was nineteen years old when I got married.  I met Meyer in Wildrose, Wisconsin, at a Bnei Akiva Summer Camp (Moshava) when I was seventeen.  
Soon after I got out of the concentration camps, I learned Israeli folk dancing at Bnei Akiva in Holland.  I have been dancing ever since and am an Israeli folk dancing teacher.

 We have three sons, four grandsons and one granddaughter, four great granddaughters and one great grandson.  
All of the grandchildren at this time are living in New York.

 My brother, Rabbi Levy Van Leeuwen is living in Elazar, Israel.  He is married and they have seven married children, and many grandchildren.

 My baby brother Zev Van Leeuwen is living in Hod Hasharon, Israel, and is married. 
 They have three children and one granddaughter.
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where were you in hiding?
In Holland
Occupation after the war
Taught Israel Folk Dancing
Meyer J. Segal, Teacher (retired)
What do you think helped you to survive?
G-d, my parents’ obsession with cleanliness, and the Allies. My mother used to save bread rations to get clothing for us growing children from the new refugees. She used the water ration more for cleaning than for drinking.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Be tolerant of other people's beliefs. Don't hate. Don't be greedy, be kind! Stand up for your beliefs and your rights and those of others.
Charles Silow
Interview date:
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