Elinor, the daughter of Herbert and Betty Oettinger, was born in Amsterdam on September 9, 1929. Her parents, originally from Hamburg, Germany, had emigrated much earlier to escape antisemitism. Mr. Oettinger, a successful tobacco merchant, was a World War I hero, and received the "Iron Cross 1st Class." The Oettinger family lived comfortably in Amsterdam, where Jews were well-integrated into all aspects of Dutch economic and social life.
When the Germans occupied Holland in May 1940, they instituted harsh antisemitic measures. Jews were barred from most professions and from public schools. Jewish businesses were shut down. Elinor had to attend a private Jewish school, and could no longer play with her non-Jewish friends. She was forced to wear the yellow star. Friends, neighbors and teachers suddenly began to disappear.
On June 20, 1943, the Germans conducted a massive door to door raid. Elinor and her family were arrested and sent to Westerbork Transit Camp, from where they were deported, in spring 1944, to Terezin (Theresienstadt) Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia. Severely crowded and lacking food, medicine and heat, the ghetto was infested with vermin. Elinor and her family were always hungry and constantly lived with the fear of being deported to the death camps in Poland. Herbert, her father worked in the administration of the camp. In September 1944, a day after Yom Kippur (Jewish Day of Atonement), Elinor's father was transported to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland. Two weeks later, on October 18, 1944, fifteen year old Elinor (Elinoor), her eleven year old brother Ralf, together with their mother were deported to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. They were gassed immediately upon arrival.
Elinor had just turned fifteen.