Madeleine Sigel

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Madeleine Sigel, née Bartfeld, died peacefully at her home in Bethesda May 3. She was 96. She was born on Feb. 16, 1924, in Vienna, into a family deeply involved in Viennese cultural and theatrical life. She often described her childhood as a perfect fairy tale.

In 1939, just before her 15th birthday, the worsening Nazi threat forced Madeleine and her parents, Melitta and Albert Bartfeld, to flee Austria. They traveled through Italy, Switzerland and France before booking passage to Cuba, where the ship’s refugees were denied entry. The refugees were subsequently denied entry to several other Central and South American countries before being accepted on the Pacific coast of Panama, where they were quarantined on an American military base for 18 months. The Bartfelds finally arrived on Ellis Island in 1942.


Mrs. Sigel met her future husband, then an officer in the Navy, via pen pal. She was married to Stanley Jordan Sigel in 1947. The couple settled in Washington.

Mrs. Sigel was active in local Democratic politics and served for almost 50 years as precinct chair of the Montgomery County 7-22. She also served in officer roles at the Montgomery County Women’s Democratic Club. Mrs. Sigel worked for Hillary Rodham Clinton when she was first lady.

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Survivors include daughters, Karen Sigel, M.D. (Harold Perl) and Joan Sigel; grandson, Benjamin Schwartz (Whitney Schwartz); and great-grandson, Sheffield. Mrs. Sigel was predeceased by her husband. The family wishes to express their gratitude to Bernadette Cole and Sandra Page for their care of and kindness to Madeleine Sigel. Donations may be made to the Jewish Social Services Agency.

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