Idele was born in 1926 in Chemnitz, Germany to Polish Jewish parents. She was an only child, and her mother died shortly after her birth. When she was four years old, she and her father moved to Recklinghausen, Germany where Idele lived with the Jacobsohns, German-Jewish family. In 1933, Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany and Idele’s father, along with other Polish Jews living in Germany, was deported to Poland. Idele remained in Recklinghausen with the Jacobsohns until 1937, when she moved into an orphanage.
After the threatening Kristallnacht pogrom, Idele left Germany on a Kindertransport, and she arrived in Brussels, Belgium in early 1939. There, she lived with a family who protected her and concealed her Jewish identity. Her father remained in contact with the different families taking care of Idele, and only stopped sending letters when it threatened revealing Idele’s identity as a Jewish girl. As Idele was in hiding, being in public was dangerous, but the family was committed to protecting Idele. When she needed an emergency tonsillectomy, the family’s doctor performed the procedure on their kitchen table. She posed as a Catholic until British troops liberated Belgium in 1944. After the war, she learned that her father had been killed. Idele settled in the United States in 1947, where she met and married Benjamin Stapholtz. Those who saved her were honored by Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations.”
Surviving the Holocaust: Stories of Life
An ongoing project of KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles
and Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust in Pan Pacific Park