Monday, September 28, 2020 -
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Sisters and survival: The saga of Ida and Doris

Doris, l, and Ida Gostynski

This is a tale of two sisters. Of their manifold tragedies and misfortunes — and their rare good luck. Of their survival, not only of the Holocaust but the Blitz that raged alongside it.

Of their uncertain journeys, their unknown destinations, as children, as orphans.

Of the unlikely fact that both are alive today to tell the tale.

And of the love these sisters had, and still have, for one another.

Where to begin?

Let us choose a cold day in early November of 1938 in the troubled city of Berlin.

A few nights before, these two sisters — Ida, age 16, and Doris, age 14 — had huddled alone in their apartment, listening in terror as the capital city of the Nazi empire went violently insane.

They heard the infamous breaking glass of Kristallnacht, the screams of the Jews who were assaulted by mobs. The next morning they saw the shards of glass, and the blood, on the streets.

A few days later the two young Jewish women, orphans with no mother or father, found themselves homeless, kicked out of their apartment, a little money between them and a small suitcase in which they hurriedly had packed a few belongings.

They had no relatives in Berlin or elsewhere in Germany, so far as they knew. They knew of no friends who could take them in. They were frightened and, except for each other, utterly alone.

We must turn the clock back, even before 1938, to see how the sisters came to such dire straits.

Ida and Doris Gostynski were the daughters of Polish Jewish immigrants to Germany, Max (Moishe) and Hinda Marium (Marie) Gostynski. They had a brother, Aron, who was 10 years older than Ida.

They barely remember a Germany not under the iron fist of Adolf Hitler, and experienced anti-Semitism very early on.

Their father sent them to a Jewish school in their native Berlin, where they became favorite targets of the local non-Jewish children.

“I was only five or six years old, going to kindergarten,” says Doris today, in the comfort of her memento-filled suburban home in Broomfield.

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email

Chris Leppek

IJN Assistant Editor |

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