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Lina Dreifuss, Refugee From Nazism and 'Backbone' to Her Family, Dies

October 23, 2008
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Lina Dreifuss

Lina Dreifuss, 106, who worked multiple jobs to support her family, died Sept. 17, four days before what would have been her 107th birthday.

Dreifuss was born in a little German town named Gross Bieberau. Her mother nicknamed her "Goldschatz," which literally translates into gold piece.

When her father died during the Great German Depression of the 1920s, she stepped in and ran the family business until her brother Walter could take it over.

In 1925, she married Siegfried Dreifuss. They would go on to celebrate their 50th anniversary. But the reason that milestone was even possible was because Lina managed to engineer Siegfried's release from Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939.

Forced out of Germany for being Jewish, Siegfried, Lina and their daughter, Elizabeth, came to America -- by way of England -- in 1941.

They started out in a Manhattan apartment that held nine refugees, and Lina worked multiple jobs to support her family. She was a maid, a seamstress and a laborer in a button factory.

At age 91, Dreifuss moved from New York to Philadelphia to help look after her daughter, who had suffered a stroke. Three years later, Elizabeth passed on.

Dreifuss is survived by son-in-law Marvin Levy; three grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren; and two great-great-grandchildren.

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