(Re the Holocaust) I still do not understand it. I cannot get anyone to tell me why this happened. And yes, it has altered my whole life. I think of it most days.
- Ruth David

Ruth was born Ruth Oppenheimer in 1929, in Fränkish-Crumbach, Germany. During her childhood she lived with her parents, Moritz and Margarete and her five siblings, Ernst, Werner, Hannah, Michael and Feodora. Moritz owned a cigar factory, but after the Wall Street Crash in 1929, business had become increasingly difficult, and things began to worsen when Hitler came to power in 1933, and anti-Jewish laws became more prolific in Germany. The Oppenheimer’s had to sell their house and go to live with Ruth’s Aunt Ida and Uncle Gustav.

On the 10th of November 1938, Ruth was woken from her bed by the sound of banging on the front door. She was terrified to hear that people had broken down the door and were destroying the house and attacking her family. Ruth and her older sister, Hannah fled from the house barefoot and hid in their father’s car. When the vandals had left, Ruth and her sister returned to find that her father and her older brother, Ernst had been arrested. They were taken to Buchenwald concentration camp, where they faced terrible conditions. Ernst returned to the family first and was given a short period of time in which he had to leave the country.  Ernst had a sail ticket for New York, USA in his pocket when he entered the camp, which arguably facilitated his release. Ruth’s father returned weeks later in a very poor state. 

Similar instances had occurred across Germany and Austria on the 9th and 10th of November, wherein Jewish businesses and synagogues were vandalised and destroyed. It became later known as the November Pogrom. Ruth remembers this as one of the most terrifying experiences of her life.

Shortly after the Pogrom, the family moved to Manheim where her mother was appointed to run a Jewish orphanage and her father to help. The family lived there for a while before Ruth’s parents decided they must seek refuge for their remaining children. Ruth’s older brother, Werner had left for Argentina in May 1938, and after his release from Buchenwald concentration camp, her other brother, Ernst had travelled to the USA.

Ruth was sent to Britain via the Kindertransport scheme in June 1939. She was 10 years old. When she reached Britain, she resided in Tynemouth and Windermere amongst other places. Ruth’s sister, Hannah arrived in England just after her in August 1939, but was living in the South of England, meaning she and Ruth only managed to meet twice during the war.

Ruth remembers the longing she had to be reunited with her parents and wrote to them frequently before the war while she was in England.

Unfortunately, Ruth’s parents along with Michael and Feodora, were deported to Le Camp de Gurs in France in 1940. It was here that Ruth’s younger brother Michael was rescued by a woman named Alice Rese who was helping children in the camp escape into Switzerland.

From Le Camp de Gurs they were transferred to Riversaltes in 1941. They were presented with a similar opportunity for Feodora to be rescued and reluctantly parted with her. Ruth’s parents were then separated, her father was sent to Camp de Milles and her mother was sent to Marseilles, but they were soon reunited when her mother voluntarily re-joined him in Camp de Milles.

During this time Ruth’s mother continued to write to all of her children, family and friends. Ruth said that she never mentioned the terrible conditions they were living in or what was happening to them. Ruth’s mother wrote her last letter on the 11th of August 1942, soon after she and her husband were deported to Auschwitz, where they were murdered.

Ruth was a very dear friend and supporter of the National Holocaust Centre and Museum. She devoted many hours of her life to reliving her experiences in talks to school children and adults in England, the USA, Israel, and Germany. Her legacy will be protected and preserved by the centre and will be used to educate audiences about the Holocaust for years to come.

The Collection

The museum houses documents, objects, and photographs donated by Ruth David. It is our privilege to care for these artefacts and ensure they are available for future generations. The museum's collection provides vital, tangible, evidence of the Holocaust. We are committed to ensuring we have everything we need to continue to tell our speaker's stories into the future. Please find a selection of objects below from the Ruth David Collection, you can also search our collections for further objects and information.