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Woman Who Comforted Dying Anne Frank Dies at 95

Gena Turgel survived multiple concentration camps, told her story for decades
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 10, 2018 6:33 AM CDT
In this 2005 file photo, Queen Elizabeth meets Holocaust survivor Gena Turgel during a service to remember victims of the Holocaust on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. Turgel, a Holocaust...   (Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool Photo via AP, File)
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(Newser) – Gena Turgel, a Holocaust survivor who comforted Anne Frank at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp before the young diarist's death and the camp's liberation a month later, has died. She was 95. Turgel died Thursday, Britain's chief rabbi said. The Polish native touched many in the decades as she shared her World War II experiences, including the horrors of the Nazi camps at Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen. After World War II, Turgel married one of Bergen-Belsen's British liberators, Norman Turgel, earning the nickname "The Bride of Belsen." Her wedding dress, made from parachute silk, is part of the collection of the Imperial War Museum in London. Turgel attended Britain's Holocaust remembrance two months ago. "My story ... is also the story of 6 million who perished," she said, per the AP. "Maybe that's why I was spared—so my testimony would serve as a memorial ... for the men, women, and children who have no voice."

Born in Krakow as Gena Goldfinger in 1923, Turgel had to move with her family in 1941 to a Jewish ghetto with only a sack of potatoes, some flour, and a few belongings. One brother was shot by the SS police and another disappeared after trying to escape. A sister was shot trying to smuggle food into a labor camp. In January 1945, Turgel and her mother were forced onto a death march from Auschwitz, leaving her remaining sister behind. In a hospital at Bergen-Belsen, where the 22-year-old Turgel arrived in February 1945, she cared for Anne Frank as the 15-year-old girl was dying from typhus. "I washed her face, gave her water to drink, and I can still see that face, her hair, and how she looked," Turgel once told the BBC. Turgel's "story was difficult to hear, and difficult for her to tell, but no one who heard her speak will ever forget," said the chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

(Read more Holocaust survivor stories.)

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