Jewish survivors of the Holocaust
Foster, Ruth (6 of 9) The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
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The Living Memory of the Jewish Community
Foster, Ruth, 1922- (speaker, female)
Mendelson, Patricia (speaker, female)
Born Ruth Frade Heilbronn in Lingen an der Emms, Germany (near Dutch border). Father was leader of local Jewish community. Orthodox Jewish home, kosher household. Education; non-Jewish school. After 1937, Jewish children not allowed to attend Christian schools, so Ruth worked on aunt's farm for 6 months and then went to Berlin to finish school and train as kindergarten teacher. 1941, heard that her parents were to be deported. She volunteered to go with them. Transported by train to Riga. Description of arrival; march to Ghetto. They took place of 30,000 Latvian Jews killed before they arrived. The Ghetto organised schools, medical facilities, etc. Ruth worked as nurse in hospital; had to perform many abortions as no babies allowed to be born. Father shot for giving bread to friend. Mother taken to Auschwitz. Ruth then put on ship with most other prisoners from Riga, and sailed to Gdansk (Danzig). Then marched to Stutthof concentration camp; recalls stench of smoking chimneys. Description of Stutthof, conditions, daily life, roll calls, selections for gas chambers. Narrowly avoided being experimented on. No longer cared, felt life no longer worth anything. Sent to build roads in Sofienwalde, under Commandant Schulze who was reasonably humane. Ruth's aunt died in Stutthof of typhus. Russian advance; prisoners were marched out of camp. Joined by many others including Hungarians; night marches; those unable to walk were shot. Stories of cannibalism. Description of liberation by Russians, shooting of all SS guards. Many women raped by Russian soldiers. Ruth and friend Margot by now had typhus, they were taken by friendly Russian soldier to be cared for in Bromberg. Stayed in Bromberg until end of war; Ruth worked in hospital. Looked forward to resuming normal life; hoped to go to Palestine or USA. Journey home to Lingen; adventures on the way; joined up with French prisoners of war marching to France, stayed with them for protection; in Berlin, swam across border at Dessau Rollau to American sector; helped by farmers. Finally got back to Lingen, now under BAOR but occupied by Polish army. Found her house occupied by 2 Polish officers. 6 months later, 1946, she married one of them, a doctor. When his regiment was posted back to Britain she was forbidden to join him as she was German; found this more traumatic than previous experiences. Finally allowed to enter Britain, 1947; first German woman allowed in to UK. Describes feelings and fears about this. Husband demobbed 1948; they bought house in London. Birth of daughter. Description of their life and struggle to build up medical practice during birth of the NHS. Did not talk much to daughter about experiences. Visited Israel, 1967. Feels other people not interested in her story, bored by it. Feels she has born the scars well, not physically affected, but now husband has died, feels hypersenstive. Feelings about her family, religious beliefs, loneliness, nightmares. Views on anti-semitism today, Germans, visits to Germany, importance of Israel.
Interviewee's note: Born Ruth Frade Heilbronn in Lingen an der Emms, Germany (near Dutch border).