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Sonja was born in Frankfurt Germany. On November 10, 1938, her father was arrested and taken to Dachau. He was released after three months on the condition that that he leave within thirty days. The only place that did not require and entrance visa was Shanghai. The family arrived there in March of 1939.
Sonja and her family faced terrible conditions in the camp for refugees in Shanghai. They faced disease, little food, and cramped conditions as there were 20,000 people living within the small area. Her father, mother, and aunt set up a soup kitchen as her father, being a butcher had experience in the food industry. Sonja soon became busy with schooling and activities, attending SJYA, an English speaking institution built for refugee children by Horace Kadoori.
Sonja and her family left on March 20, 1947 and moved to America with the help of an Aunt who sponsored the family from Chicago. The family moved to Cincinnati in 1951 and opened a restaurant.