Birthdate: November 11, 1923
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Religious Identity: From the Jewish tradition—not observing
“We arrived in Auschwitz, the officer tells you ‘You go this way, you that way’ and I told him ‘This is my mother I want to stay with her’, and he informed me that “it was okay, she’ll go on the bus, you’ll walk and you’ll see her in 10 minutes”. That was the last time I saw my mother. It took me several days to find somebody to tell me that the people who were sent to the ‘other side’ had been gassed and cremated.”
Edith Bell was born in 1923 in Hamburg. She was 14 years old when her life changed. Her family fled in 1938 to the Netherlands, which the Nazis occupied soon after in 1940. In early 1943 Edith’s parents and Aunt were deported, her parents to Theresienstadt, and her Aunt to Auschwitz, where she perished. Edith was deported in the summer 1943 at the age of 19. She was sent to Westerbork transit camp and then to Theresienstadt, where she saw her father die. She and her mother were sent to Auschwitz, where her mother was killed. She was sent on yet another train to Upper Silesia where she worked outdoors digging defense trenches to prevent the Russian approach. Soon the whole camp fled westward from the approaching Russian army. After several days, she could no longer walk, she was left behind. She and ten other women were liberated by Russian Forces in January 1945 at the age of 21. She returned to the Netherlands, got married and moved to Palestine to join her sister. After her husband died, she had the opportunity to visit friends in Panama, where she met Sidney Bell, a solider in the U.S. Army. They married and moved to Wisconsin and then to Athens, WV, where her husband taught at Concord College for 30 years. Edith often spoke in local schools about her experiences during the Holocaust. The couple had two children, and in 2001 Edith moved to Pittsburgh to be closer to them. She is an avid peace activist. She feels that as a Holocaust survivor she must speak out for human rights, whoever the humans are.
“It certainly didn’t hold me back, I think it strengthened me. I am a fighter, a survivor. I get very annoyed when people introduce me as ‘Holocaust survivor, Edith Bell’ it is not my defining identity.”
Read her full testimony here.