I’ve decided to talk to schools about my experiences… I feel that education is the way forward for humanity
- Ruth Barnett

Ruth was born in 1935, in Berlin, Germany. Her father was a lawyer and her mother worked in advertising and both had a successful career. She also had an older brother, Martin, who was 3 years her elder.

Hitler was already in power when Ruth was born, and as her father was Jewish, her and Martin were in danger. Her father fled to Shanghai, one of the only places accepting Jewish refugees, and her mother spent most of the war in hiding. Whilst she was not Jewish herself, she took part in a protest against the treatment of Jews in Germany, and was arrested.

Ruth’s parents took the difficult decision to send their children to Britain on the Kindertransport, so they could escape persecution at the hands of the Nazis. Ruth remembers leaving Germany, and having a tantrum because the train station was close to the zoo, and she wanted to go there instead of England. She can also remember the long journey to the Dutch coast, and constantly asking “are we there yet?”

Ruth’s mother was able to accompany them to England with a holiday visa, however she had to immediately return to Germany, leaving her two children with a foster family. They first stayed in Kent with an elderly clergyman, who Ruth remembers fondly. However, his wife did not seem to like having to take care of children who weren’t her own, and was not kind to Ruth or Martin.

Ruth and Martin moved to a Quaker boarding school, visiting Kent in the holidays. They then spent a summer at a hostel in Richmond, before going a new family in Kent. This family had 5 children of their own, including a daughter the same age as Ruth. They became close friends, and kept in touch long after the war.

Ruth and Martin had to move again, due to the bombs flying overhead disturbing Martin. This time, they moved in with a family of farmers. It was around this time, when she was around 9 years old, that Ruth began to develop a Jewish identity. Children in her school discovered that she was German, and called her a Nazi. She challenged back and stated that she couldn’t be a Nazi as she was thrown out of Germany for being Jewish.

Ruth had no contact with her parents during her time in England. When her father fled to Shanghai he visited them, and took Martin to London for a few days. Ruth told herself, and others, that her mother was dead.

Believing her mother to be dead, it was then very difficult for Ruth when her mother finally came to England after the war. Ruth was 14, and had lived most of her life in England away from her parents. Ruth’s mother looked very different to how Ruth remembered her, and to make matters worse, Ruth no longer spoke German and her mother did not speak English. Ruth had also heard stories about how terrible Germany was, and did not wish to return.

She stayed in England for a while longer, and did not return to Germany with her mother. Eventually Ruth did return, but struggled to build a relationship with her parents. She returned to England, and visited Germany during the holidays.

Ruth led a happy life in Britain. She worked tirelessly, telling her story in schools and colleges, firmly believing that education was the best way to eradicate hatred and bigotry.