"We live together or we die together, that’s what kept us alive."

Ilse Hess, 1983

How a family survives

The Hess family survived all phases of the persecution together. The parents could think only of how to survive and protect the children. This gave them the strength to persevere. Whenever the transport train from Bergen-Belsen stopped, the father jumped out of the car to find something to eat. When the mother Ilse became severely ill, the children got cups full of service water from the locomotive’s tender so that something warm could be cooked. The family survived. In 1947 they moved to the USA. Karl Hess died in 1981, Ilse Hess in 2003.

Ilse, Marion, Karl and Stefan Hess at the North Sea, August 1939
Steven and Marion with their mother Ilse in front of the family’s first automobile in New York, 1948

"… we were simply lucky."

Steven Hess, 2021

The twins Stefan and Marion

Stefan and Marion Hess were born in Amsterdam in 1938. Their parents, Ilse and Karl, were from Germany. The father, a sales agent, was transferred to Amsterdam by his company in 1937. When the Wehrmacht invaded the Netherlands in 1940, the family’s attempt to flee to England failed. At the "Hollandsche Schouwburg" assembly camp, Karl Hess helped detainees to flee. In 1943, shortly before the family could go into hiding, they were arrested and deported to the Westerbork transit camp. Karl Hess succeeded in having his family sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as exchange hostages, rather than being deported to the East.

Monika Lewin und Steven Hess, Washington, 2018
Steven Hess speaks with soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division of the US Army on Holocaust Remembrance Day in Fort Drum, NY, 2011

Marion Ein Lewin explains how she survived.| Video 02:08 min

"Since then, I always buy fresh flowers into the house ..."

Marion Ein Lewin, 2021

Steven Hess and Marion Ein Lewin, née Hess

In New York the twins, then nine years old, went to kindergarten – until then they had never been in a school. Later, Steven studied history and Marion political science. After military service, Steven worked as an advertising manager and was later self-employed. Marion worked as a teacher in Queens before serving as an expert for healthcare policy in Washington D.C. Since the 1980s Steven has made public appearances as a contemporary witness. Marion actively supports a foundation that preserves the memory of Jewish artists who were in Theresienstadt (Terezín) concentration camp.

Stefan and Marion, Amsterdam, 1942>
Steven and Marion on their 80th birthday in New York, 2018.
The Statue of Liberty was the first thing the twins saw of the “New World” in 1947 when the family moved to the USA.