Escaping Nazi Germany
Ruth was born in Germany and escaped to Czechoslovakia in 1938 after her father’s arrest.
Ruth, her mother and brother secured visas to England to escape from Nazism. They arrived in England in September 1939, just as war broke out. Once here, they were reunited with Ruth’s father.
“You see the problem is, people saw these troubles, everybody says why didn’t they get out? Well why didn’t they get out, who’s going to give you a visa to get out?”
Life in Germany
Ruth was born into a religious Jewish family in the town of Zwickau in Germany. Her father owned a wool factory just outside the town but it was taken away from him after 1933 as Jews were no longer allowed to own businesses. Her father secretly helped people to escape over the mountains into Czechoslovakia – a risky and dangerous task, and in 1938 he was betrayed and arrested. Ruth’s mother managed to secure his release from prison and the family themselves fled into Czechoslovakia.
In Prague Ruth’s father left the family and went to Poland. His parents had been deported from Germany into Poland, and he wanted to try to secure their release.
Ruth’s mother was desperately trying to secure a route out of Czechoslovakia for herself and the children. She initially secured Ruth a place on a Kindertransport, however Ruth’s brother was too young to go and she decided not to send Ruth away alone. Ruth’s mother spent her time going from consulate to consulate trying to secure them visas. Many offered a visa for her to get out but wouldn’t allow her to take her children, so she turned them down.
The family finally secured a visa to go to Britain on 31st August 1939. A woman from the British embassy broke the curfew to deliver the visas and train tickets. The next day they left on a train that travelled through Germany to Holland where they boarded a ship to Britain.
“She said you have to go the next morning, doesn’t matter what, just dress yourself, put as many clothes on as you can… Don’t take anything, just put the baby in the pushchair, take some food and provisions and that’s it.”
Ruth, her mother and brother arrived at Liverpool Street Station, London at teh beginning of September 1939. As they stepped off the train everything went quiet and an announcement over the tannoy declared that Britain was now at war with Germany. They were put in a hostel for women and children. The next day her mother began searching for news of her husband.
She knocked on the door of the first men’s hostel she found and amazingly, her husband opened the door. The family were reunited. As refugees from Germany they were subjected to strict regulations: Ruth’s father had to attend the police station every day to sign a form stating his whereabouts.
The family moved to Leeds where there was a Jewish community and where her father could work in the wool industry. In Leeds Ruth attended school before going to university to study languages and became a teacher. She married David in 1955 and they remained in Leeds to raise their own family.
Ruth lost many members of her family in the Holocaust including her grandparents, aunts and uncles. She is grateful for the opportunity Britain gave her to build a new life.
“On the whole people are very tolerant and it’s a wonderful country to live in, they’re wonderful people to be with and I think people who live here are very very lucky.”
To learn more about Ruth’s story, visit The Holocaust Exhibition and Learning Centre. For more information about your visit, click here
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