Ruth

Birthdate: 1 Jan

Place: Hildesheim, Germany

Ruth grew-up Jewish in a small town called Hildesheim not far from Hanover, in Germany. She remembers a largely carefree existence growing-up. She attended the local school. 

"I think it was six years old when you started school in Germany and we got what they called a Zuckertüte (which translated - Zucker is sugar and Tüte is cone) and it was an enormous cone about three feet high filled with chocolates and lollies and bits and pieces...This school being a Jewish school they celebrated Hanukah and they had time off when we had our Jewish Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Pesachor Passover or any of the other things (relgious or festive days). It was a Jewish school, not a religious school, and it was right opposite the synagogue, right opposite. It was a very nice synagogue actually, a very very nice synagogue, and it was burned to the ground on Kristallnacht (Crystal Night)." 

Until the Nazi-era, Germany had one of the most integrated Jewish communities in Europe, and had been a relatively liberal 'safe gaven' compared to other European countries. Ruth's father had fought for Germany in the First World War. "He couldn’t talk about it. He was very traumatised by it. He had got a lung shot at one stage and was in a field hospital for quite some time. The horror of it all - he would never discuss it. At the end of the war he got an Iron Cross and he was quite proud of that..." 

When the Nazis started to enact laws; slowly, creepingly and progessively stripping away more and more rights and privileges away from Jewish Germans. "When all the Nazi-business started, he just simply didn’t believe that it was possible because he had an Iron Cross and he had fought in the First World War, and they weren’t going to do that to him."

The rise of the Nazis in Germany forced Jewish people there to be confronted for the first-time in their lives with the message that they were different. That they were were not like everyone else. They were increasingly told that they were not in fact German. Ruth remembers: "I used to play with my the kids in the street, my neighbours. I had roller skates and I had a little bike and I had a hoop and so forth. One day I went into the place where someone whom I thought was a nice friend of mine lived, and the parents told me to go away. They said ‘Get out, we don’t want you here!’” 

The Nazis passed laws banning Jews from many professions, and barred Germans from doing business with Jews - or even working for them. The results destroyed the livelihoods of many Jewish families, including Ruth's: "The family business went bankrupt because of Nazi boycotting and we then had to go and live elsewhere. We rented accommodation a little out of the city. It was a very, very unpopular thing to do, to have Jewish tenants. So these people put their lives sort of on the chopping board to house us.” 

Things got progressively worse for Jewish Germans like Ruth’s family. Her parents applied to the New Zealand government, leaving in 1938 for Auckland. Ruth married another Polish émigré Sol, also a holocaust survivor; raising a family in Auckland. Ruth and Sol have been very active in Holocaust education and remembrance in NZ, something she credits partly to marrying another survivor.

"I wouldn’t have become nearly as involved with the Holocaust and with the, the survivors and all the rest of that if it hadn’t been for marrying him because I really got caught up in his story and his life and…everything."

Ruth and Sol's daughter Deb, a Kiwi ex-pat actor, artist, writer and producer who resides in North America and who has performed internationally, created and acted-in a show 'Punch me in the Stomach' that works through her identity and feelings as the child of Holocaust survivors.

Her Fathers World War I Military Service

Explore this theme further: Rise of Nazism

When the First World War came to an end, Germany's economy spun out of control, inflation took over,  and currency and savings became worthless. Unemployment was widespread. People took to the streets  to demonstrate  against the measures of the day and were brutally attacked by paramilitary units and the state police. Gun fights and street brawls were not unusual... >> more