Sophie Nathan was born in 1921 in Emmerich, Germany. It was s small town with about 30 Jewish families. Her father was George and her mother was Thea Bendix Nathan. She had a sister named Emmi. Her father was a merchant and a veteran of the German army in World War I. Sophie wanted to become a children's nurse but was unable to finish her education due to Jews being excluded from higher education. She went to work in a Jewish camp/school near Hannover, Germany that prepared children for immigration to Israel. She worked there until 1941. When her parents got their deportation notice she returned from Hannover to be with them. The Nathan family was deported to the Riga ghetto in Latvia on December 11, 1941. When they arrived they were pushed into a part of the ghetto that had been cleared of Latvian Jews just days before by murdering nearly 14,000 of them outside of town. There was still food on the table in the house they chose. The German Jews in the ghetto were at a real disadvantage: they could not speak the language and did not have any local contacts to help them ease their situation. They were isolated from the Latvian Jews in the other part of the ghetto. Sophie and Emmi went to work in a factory sorting the clothing and possessions of the Latvian Jews who had been murdered to make a place for them. She also worked digging peat, loading and unloading railroad cars, and as a maid for German officers in the Wehrmacht. On November 2, 1942 the Riga ghetto was liquidated and the Jews were housed in barracks on their work sites. Sophie, Thea and Emmi managed to stay together in the same barracks, where they worked as maids. Finally, they were sent to the Kaiserwald concentration camp on the outskirts of Riga. From there they were sent to Libau, Germany where they worked for a few weeks and then they were marched to Kiel, Germany where they were liberated. The Danish Red Cross took them from the camp in buses. They were taken to Denmark, then Sweden, where Sophie managed to get in touch with relatives who helped them get settled. Sophie, Emmi and Thea (who barely survived the final camp) immigrated to the United States. Sophie married Heinz (Henry) Nathan and they lived in Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. For about five years they moved to Israel but then returned to the United States. Sophie died in 2002 and is buried in Atlanta.
OHC-Sophie Nathan Nathan
Oral History - Sophie Nathan Nathan (1921 - 2002)