Action News has learned how Hitler's Nazi Germany touched a long time resident of Madera County and how she escaped the horrors many in her family did not.
81-year-old Margit Stuart was born in Hamburg, Germany where her multi-generational family lived purposeful lives. Her grandfather had a business making licoures, her father was a doctor. When the Nazi regime took over Germany everything changed. 1939 found her mother looking for a way to get to America.
Margit said, "She wrote every freedlander in America to see if there was a connection because you needed a relative."
That same year Jews were targeted for relocation and ultimately... extinction.
Margit was nine when her parents managed to get passage on a ship to America and relatives there. But her grandparents and other family members chose to stay. They would die in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
Margit said, "I didn't know how bad it was until my mother died and I read her letters."
She does recall her family being forced from their home before escaping Germany -- and living in a small apartment where an SS officer offered a surprising comment.
"We were on the second floor and there was, he was SS, he was a captain in the army and he came up the back way to apologies," said Margit.
This summer, at the invitation of the city of Hamburg, Stuart and others returned to their birth place. She brought her three grown children with her.
The owner of the old family home kindly asked them inside and to the garden outside the city a Holocaust memorial offers another view of those dark years and the horrors reaped upon many.
Margit said, "6 million Jews, 7 million Catholics, god knows how many gays and lesbians -- that Hitler decided was not good for him, not good for the nation, that they just systematically killed."
Hitler's madness would lead to Margit Stuart becoming an American citizen -- a gift she cherishes. She's finally talking about what happened to her, encouraging us to remember and to condemn such evil still at work around the world today.
Margit said, "People might be different than you are and have different beliefs but we should be tolerant."