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Twin sisters recount the Holocaust

Women speak at Congregation Beth Shalom in Santa Clarita as part of Holocaust Remembrance Day

Posted: April 28, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 28, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Twin sisters Rita Kahane, left, and Serena Rubin pose for a photo Sunday after speaking at Congregation Beth Shalom in Santa Clarita as part of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). The Hungarian-born sisters avoided being selected by Nazi doctor Josef Mengele, who experimented on Jewish twins during WWII. Signal photo by Jim Holt.


Twin sisters Rita Kahane and Serena Rubin told a small congregation at Beth Shalom Sunday how lucky they were to have survived several life-threatening moments during the Holocaust, most notably perhaps being the day Nazi doctor Josef Mengele came looking for twins.

As part of Yom Hashoah (Holocaust RemembranceDay), the sisters joined others at the temple on Centre Pointe Parkway by lighting candles in memory of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust.

Then, as part of the temple’s mission to ensure younger generations learn about the systematic slaughter of Jews by the Nazis during World War II, the Hungarian-born sisters were invited to share their painful story of survival.

Kahane and Rubin took turns telling the same story.

But, it was the day that Mengele showed up to inspect passengers on a train bound for Auschwitz that the sisters escaped a life of certain death and torture.

Mengele, often referred to as the “Angel of Death,” was personally responsible for sending hundreds of thousands of people to the gas chambers and for conducting horrific experiments on women and children, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

“Dr. Mengele was at the train and he was going left and right, looking left and right, on the other side of a wire gate,” Kahane said. “Some of the people were telling us ‘If you are twins don’t tell. If you have young babies you have to give them to older people to take care of the babies.

“When they told us that, we were lucky we did not dress the same way,” Kahane said.

The sisters tried to stay close with each other but also remain at a distance, they said. When they were forced to register as Jews bound for Auschwitz, Kahane said: “We tried not to register together.

“We were lucky not to be selected by Dr. Mengele,” Rubin said. “As you know, twins were picked for experiments. And, they (Nazis) experimented on some of the twins.”

Mengele’s twin research — including the unnecessary amputation of limbs and injecting one twin with typhus or other diseases — was in part intended to prove the supremacy of heredity over environment and, in this way, bolster the Nazi premise of the superiority of the Aryan race, according to author Sybille Steinbacher.
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