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Sibylle Niemoeller-von Sell

Author, Lecturer, and Anti-Nazi

THE NIGHTMARE YEARS: GROWING UP IN NAZI GERMANY

The only daughter of Baron Ulrich von Sell and his wife Augusta, nee Baroness von Brauchitsch, was born Sibylla Augusta Sophia Baroness von Sell, a member of an old, highly esteemed Prussian aristocratic family, noted for providing military leaders and statesmen throughout the centuries.

Baron Ulrich von Sell, a diplomat before World War I, after the war became financial advisor and administrator of the vast personal fortune of Germany's last Emperor, Wilhelm II of Hohenzollern who, in 1918, abdicated the throne and sought asylum in the Netherlands. He became godfather to both the Sell children.

The family was staunchly and uncompromisingly anti-nazi even before Hitler came to power. When, in 1931, Pastor Martin Niemoeller took over St. Anne's church in Berlin-Dahlem, the two families were linked in a close relationship.

Martin Niemoeller, founder of the anti-nazi Confessing Church in 1933, in 1937 became Hitler's only private and personal prisoner. He was to survive 1 year in prison and 7 years in the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Dachau. After his liberation by the U.S. Army, he accepted the position of President of the Church of Hessen and Nassau and was elected President of the World Council of Churches. Some 2 dozen biographies have been written about him - most of which are available in English. In addition he is mentioned at length in numerous publications, e.g. in William Shirers's "The Thousand Year Reich" and "The Nightmare Years".

Baron von Sell's family participated actively in an underground railroad in Berlin-Dahlem, hiding and saving Jews on the run and was heavily involved in the ill-fated plot to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944. Mrs. Niemoeller's cousin, Werner von Haeften, Stauffenberg's adjutant, carried the bomb. He was shot with Count Stauffenberg, his brother Hans-Bernd hanged after the failure. Sibylle Niemoeller herself was arrested by the Gestapo, interrogated and abused, but eventually released. Ulrich von Sell was thrown into a nazi prison. Only days after the end of the Battle of Berlin, he was kidnapped by the Soviet KGB and starved in a Soviet death camp in November of 1945.

Sibylle von Sell, by training and profession an actress, entered the United States as an immigrant after World War II and became a U.S. citizen. (She was admitted outside the quota as a "victim of Fascism). In New York she married Ross K. Donaldson (1959), at the time "Director of Evening Entertainment" for NBC-TV. She has one son from another previous marriage, Dr. U. Marcus Niemoeller, who is a physician with Abington Medical Specialists in Abington, PA. (He changed his name "Niemoeller" in honor of his stepfather).

Following the separation from her husband Ross Donaldson in 1968, she was reunited after 31 years with Pastor Martin Niemoeller, the legendary resistance fighter. Both having lost their spouses, they got married in 1971 (Pastor Niemoeller being 32 years her senior). They resided in Wiesbaden, Germany, until the Pastor's death on March 6, 1984. During those years, Mrs. Niemoeller worked on the staff of the American Red Cross in the Wiesbaden U.S. Air Force Hospital. In the spring of 1998, she returned to the United States.

After her husband's death, Mrs. Niemoeller took up speaking in public about her own experiences, her life with Martin Niemoeller, lecturing in universities, colleges, schools and synagogues about the nazi time, resistance and non-resistance and particularly the Holocaust. Under the guidance of her close friend and mentor, Elie Wiesel, she has become a noted Holocaust lecturer in the U.S.

With Dr. Albert H. Friedlander, Senior Rabbi of Westminster-London as her teacher, Mrs. Niemoeller converted to Judaism in 1989 in London. She is an honorary member of Temple Emanuel in New York City. Upon her move to Doylestown she joined Temple Ohev Shalom in Richboro, Bucks County where she was made an honorary member.

Between 1982 and 1994 she wrote her own autobiography in two volumes, published by Ullstein-Berlin, now in the second and third edition respectively.

Among the voices commenting on her biography are the following:

ELIE WIESEL "It is a very special story that Sibylle Niemoeller-von Sell tells with esprit, warmth and absolute credibility. With a remarkable mixture of humor, tenderness and sincerity, the books present a document of our time, from which the readers can learn much about the failures, the challenges and the desperate hopes of a whole generation."

RAUL HILBERG - "A plea for justice, dignity and truth"

RABBI ALBERT H. FRIEDLANDER, London - "This autobiography is an important testimony of time and humanity. It is a book of hope and of reconciliation."

In the recent publication "NOT BY BIRTH ALONE" (Cassell - London and Washington, 1997) by Rabbi Dr. Walter Homolka, Rabbi Dr. Walter Jacob and Dr. Ester Seidel, Sibylle Sarah Niemoeller-von Sell tells of her own experiences involving her conversion to the Jewish faith.

Before becoming an author, Mrs. Niemoeller-von Sell had translated Ellen Stern's biography of Elie Wiesel "WITNESS FOR LIFE" (KTAV Publishing House, Inc. - New York, 1982), published in German by HERDER VERLAG, Freiburg, Germany.

Mrs. Niemoeller-von Sell has just finished a new volume containing a number of autobiographical stories. The American version of her biography is now ready for publication under the title: "CROWNS, CROSSES AND STARS".

Having purchased a house, she is now a permanent resident of Doylestown, PA.