Rachel Bodner was born Rachel Rozenfeld on May 19, 1927 in Antwerp, Belgium. The daughter of a knitwear factory owner, Bodner grew up with two sisters, Ida and Isabelle. She was nearly thirteen years old when war broke out in Belgium in 1940, causing many families to flee the country. Bodner and her family tried to escape to France, but a bombing at the train station injured both Isabelle and her mother, forcing them to stay. As Jews, the Rozenfeld family were subject to severe restrictions, such as wearing the yellow star on their clothing as proof of their background. In 1942, all individuals between the ages of fifteen and thirty were ordered to present themselves at the train station to be sent to Germany. Bodner was exempted, as well as all others born in 1927 due to a negotiation on Princess Joséphine Charlotte of Belgium’s part. Ida had no choice, and perished in Auschwitz that same year. Fearing danger, Bodner’s mother put Bodner and Isabelle in hiding at a convent in Louvain. Under the supervision of Mere Liguori, the mother superior, Bodner and her sister lived with fifteen other Jewish girls at the convent until 1944, after which they were placed into various homes belonging to Christians. Shortly after British troops liberated Louvain in 1944, Bodner reunited with her mother and Isabelle, and eventually found out that her father had been killed in Auschwitz. She met her future husband, John, a German refugee, while in Belgium. The two immigrated to the United States in 1947.
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