Ruth Kirsbaum

"Well, first thing unfortunately, it isn’t the way we want it to be. Violence still goes on, but never ever ever again should people have to live through what I lived through. That should never happen again, ever."

Name at birth
Rivkah Daweowiecz
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Lodz, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Hanoch, Shoemaker
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Hena (Taub), She must have been working at some kind of a factory, a working woman.
Immediate family (names, birth order)
I was the youngest, I had two older brothers, Chaim and then five years younger was Itcha, I never called him Yitzcak.
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
I survived, and my oldest brother survived.
It wasn’t the nicest place, Lodz. 
First I have to tell you that my father passed when I was only 5 years old. My mother was left alone with the three of us. I was the youngest, no body to care for me. I lived with my uncle, who lived quite far away, and I stayed with them for 2 years. Those two years were torture, I wanted to be with my mother. They couldn’t see me, and I couldn’t see them. I cried that I wanted to go home. My uncle and aunt used to take me to a park and my family were all far away, and they looked at me from far away, but I couldn’t see them.
I stopped eating, and did a lot of stupid things to make them let me go home. I wanted to be home with my mother. I was there for two years, I left when I was seven, ready to go to school. In Europe you start school at seven. When I came home I took over the household, we all lived in one room, but it was a big room. My older brother got married and left, I stayed with my younger brother and my mother, and everyday I ran to the street-car to great her when she came home. I loved and adored my mother, as young as I was I felt sorry for her, because she was all alone.
I started school, and that was before the war. The Polish people hated us very much, when I walked out of my Jewish school they would throw stones covered in snow. They waiting for us to get out of school. They were just as bad as the Germans. Anyway, the time came that the war broke out, and we all went into the ghetto, where we used to live. 

  We didn’t have to move to move into the ghetto, we already lived in the area that was closed off. We lived at Limanowskiego, 24 Lodz. In that area, you grow up with rats and mice, and all those goodies.
My oldest brother had a baby already by then, and they all had to move into the ghetto. They moved in with us. And my older brother at one time decided that they were going to run away from the ghetto and go to Russia. He left with a group, and went to Russia, hoping to send for his family, where he expected it to be much better. Unfortunately, that never happened.

I was there with my mother and my brother and his wife and the baby. They got a little room for themselves. Living in the ghetto was no picnic, at least I was home, and I didn’t feel so bad. At this point I was probably 14, I had finished school by that time. When the war broke out, I was finishing school. 

One day we were informed that we had to leave our home, which was a huge apartment house, a were had to go down to an inspection by the Germans. My mother was very scared, I don’t know what she knew or what she didn’t tell me. She put makeup on my face so that I would look healthier. We all went down, and I was holding onto my mother and they tore us apart. They took her away from me and sent her on the other side. I knew what that meant, I saw before that they had moved the older people, but she really wasn’t that old. They took them all away, and I never saw her again. I heard later that they were all transported and killed. It was such a big day for my and in my life, but I cannot remember when it was. It was so painful to me.  My sister-in-law was taken with her baby when my mother was taken. I didn’t know what had happened to my older brother, I assumed he must have been killed.

I stayed in the ghetto with my younger brother. It was too big of a room for two people to have, so they sent us in with another neighbor and gave our room to a big family, there was a housing shortage. We were ordered to go and work in the factories.

Me and my younger brother worked at the same factory, making 2x4s, probably for building houses. We had to cut large pieces of wood on a machine, it was our job. We lived in the ghetto to the very last, me and my brother were left after Rumkovski was gone. He had already left and we were still there. I know we were both transported one day on a train, and it took us to Auschwitz. 

The men were selected here, and the woman were on the other side. They took the woman first to shower and cut the hair. I used to have gorgeous long hair. They gave us things that they wanted us to wear. When I walked out with the group, I could see the men. I called to my brother, but he didn’t recognize me anymore. They took him away later and I never saw him again. I heard about him later, but I never saw him again.

I lived in Auschwitz. You’ve seen the pictures, you know how we lived. Life there was horrendous. We had to get up when it was still night and go outside and they counted us to see if one of us didn’t run away. Then we went back to where we slept.

Life in Auschwitz, when you live there you couldn’t even go to the toilet when you wanted to go. You had to wait for them to come and take a group. If you couldn’t wait you were punished. But you didn’t really have a choice. People were beaten with sticks. 

This went on for quite a while. One day we came out for them to count us, and they counted up a group of women including me, and said that we were being transferred. I was happy, maybe where I was going would be better.

They took us to a room and gave us different clothing and a package, something to eat. And I was happy, because I was leaving that place, how could any place be worse? We were transported to a train station, and when the train came three people before me they didn’t need anymore. 15 people were left behind.

We were taken into a room and told to put away our clothing and whatever we had, and we were taken to the gas chamber. We all knew what was going on. There were men who started praying to G-d, all kinds of prayers, and He listened to us. There was a problem, and they couldn’t get the gas to work, and we walked out from the gas chamber back into the barracks where we came from.

At that point it really didn’t make that much difference if they would gas me or not. I had no desire to live anymore, it was all too much, and I was so young. And if I deserved to live like that, I better not live. Other people were of course, happy. But it didn’t make me happy or overjoyed, I just didn’t feel at that time.

My whole life I believe in Besheret, it was meant for me to live. So I lived.
I don’t know how long I was there. There was no time. You didn’t know if it was the 13th or the 27th, who had dates? Everyday was the same. Maybe people remember, but some things I’ve just blocked out, maybe it’s better.

Eventually there came a time when they transported almost everybody from there. We went on the trains where they stuffed us all together. The train didn’t have wagons, I know that I was in one wagon, and there was standing room only, we were packed in like cattle. There wasn’t even room to sit down. There was no food or water, there was absolutely nothing. You were standing up, the next day you saw someone leaning down, we were all human you know… even if there wasn’t any food or water, and then we had to live in that.
I don’t remember the second camp that I was in. 

The last camp was Ruchlits (Rochlitz)  in Czechoslovakia. We worked, but I don’t know what we were doing. We took one stone and moved it to another place, we had to work. I wouldn’t say they treated us as bad as Auschwitz, but… well, it wasn’t as bad. Especially when you worked, at least you weren’t sitting on the bed all the time, and they gave you a little soup when you were working. I had a special group of girlfriends, we stuck close together even though they were older. One night we decided to watch what the guards were doing at night, and we were going to try to run away. There were 6 or 7 of us, and we decided that whatever will be will be.

We ran and ran and ran. We came to a small town, people saw us on the street, and one family took us all in and allowed us to wash. We hadn’t washed or showered, and were filled with lice and all that crap. They were angels to us. They gave us something to eat. But they didn’t have anywhere to keep 7 of us, and they were already risking their lives.

They took us to a field and gave us blankets, they came every morning and brought us food and news of what was going on in the world. I don’t know how many weeks we stayed there. They brought us food and tried to make us want to live and survive. It was many many weeks, and they came one day and said “You are free, the war is over.” Then, I felt wonderful. I wanted to go and find my younger brother. I knew my older brother might have been in Russia. I thought maybe my younger brother was still alive, maybe I had a brother. But I heard that he was in a camp where they were made to walk, and he couldn’t walk anymore. They shot him two days before the war ended. So I was alone in the world.
Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where were you in hiding?
In Czechoslovakia
What DP Camp were you after the war?
A Jewish organization in Czechoslovakia registered us and tried to find out where we were from.
Where did you go after being liberated?
We were all from Lodz, so we decided to go back and see if there was anyone left. We went and then split up. I found one of my neighbors who had hidden in the ghetto. She got married and had a child, I stayed with her. She bought a little bed and I stayed there with her. It was a two room apartment for 4 people. I slept in the kitchen, which wasn’t bad. Little by little we started to get out of that mood. We wanted to live again. I can’t remember details, but I got married. I know we got married and soon after we settled in Hamburg, Germany. Our son was born in Hamburg. I don’t know why we settled there, from Germans to Germany, I really don’t know. It had something to do with my husband. This was in 1948. Our wedding was the 27th of May, 1947. My husbands name was Israel Meyer, but we called him Urich. My son’s name is Eddie, Edward named for my father in law. I know that we lived in Hamburg for quite a while.
When did you come to the United States?
I don’t remember when we came here, but I know that my son was three years old. He is 63 now. It must have been 1953. Everybody wanted to go to Israel or America. My husband wanted to go to Israel, but I didn’t want to be in any more fighting. So we ended up in America. We settled in America. My husband used to be an architect, but he didn’t know English very well, so they took him to work for a weekend, and couldn’t understand what they wanted from him.
Where did you settle?
We all arrived in New York, of course. When I saw the Statue of Liberty, I thought I never saw anything more beautiful in my life, more striking. It meant so much to me to be here, and to leave everything behind to make a new life. We were shipped from Germany to America, on a military ship, and I was very sick on the trip. I ended up in the hospital. On the last day of the trip my little boy ran around, he was so happy that we were here. He got two fingers caught in a door and somebody snapped a picture of him. We had in the paper a picture of “A DP Boychick, who got his fingers caught”. That stands out in my memory.
How is it that you came to Michigan?
We weren’t in New York for very long, they sent us to Flint Michigan from New York. We were sent to Flint because my husband was supposed to be an architect, and there was a job for him there, but it didn’t materialize. I hated the city so much. My husband went to work in a factory, where they made cotton. He came home everyday sneezing, he was allergic to it. He got used to it, and that’s where he wound up. He worked there until he worked at a gas station. I can’t remember if he owned it or he was working for someone else. My second son Harry was born in 1955, in Flint.
Occupation after the war
I was working in a factory for GM before my second son was born. But I didn’t let anyone care for my son, I was very protective of him. When I started working for GM, it was only at night, so my husband would be home to watch our son. He always had someone taking care of him. That lasted about a year or so, and I have a nervous breakdown. It was all just too hard. After that my friend Rose Winogram’s husband and my husband opened an auto parts store. They had a business together for a long time. We were family, we still are. We had the business, they worked seven days a week together. They switched taking off every other Sunday. They worked hard, and there were long hours. We bought a house, sent the kids to college, life went on. We sold the business in Flint when the men retired. We moved to Florida, and lived there for a long time. Then my husband passed, and our friends started to pass away. I was lonely, so I moved back to Michigan to be with my kids. When we were in Flint, one day I got the mail at the house and I saw a letter from Israel, but that wasn’t that unusual, I had cousins there. I was on the phone, while I opened up the letter. It was from my cousin, it said “Before you read another sentence, you better sit down. I went yesterday to a meeting of the Lodz survivors, and who do you think I saw there? My cousin, your brother.” I started crying on the phone, and my girlfriend thought something happened to me. I called my husband, but I couldn’t talk. He thought something happened to the kids. I finally told him that I found my brother. We didn’t have much at that time, but when I found out about my brother and his wife and his kids we knew we had to do something. It took us a little time, but we finally brought them over. I finished up the basement of our house, put the kids together in one room and gave my bedroom for my brother and his wife and kids. My husband and I slept in the basement, I didn’t care, I was so happy to have my brother back. We stayed like that for quite a while. Finally, my sister-in-law, she was very talented with her hands. She started working in a cleaning store, where they fixed clothing. She made a little money. After a year or so we rented them an apartment. They stayed in Flint for 3 years before moving to Detroit. My brother ended up getting tuberculosis, and had to stay in a hospital in Pontiac for a year. I have my two nieces, one lives here, and one lives in Tampa. She is dying of cancer. My niece here, had cancer, but she survived. She is like a daughter to me. She is absolutely my daughter. He name is Ann Hootner.
When and where were you married?
In Hamburg, May 27th, 1947.
Israel Meyer (Urich), Worked in a cotton factory.
Edward (named for my father in law) has a business just like his father had. Harry (named for my father) is a journalist. He worked for the Jewish News and the Federation. Now he works as a freelancer. My neice, Ann Hootner, who is absolutely my daughter.
I have a granddaughter from my oldest son. I have a grandson who is in the Army Reserves. He is my joy. He just finished the Police Academy. He is my pride and joy, he is such a good boy. His name is Eric.
What do you think helped you to survive?
I didn’t think I would survive. I came out of the camp, and I weighed 60 lbs. There was nothing of me. I was 19. four years in the ghetto, and one year in the camp. I could hardly walk. But you start, you want to go ahead. You’ve been through so much and you look for the future, maybe the future will be a little brighter than the past. I survived the gas chamber, who heard of someone walking out of the gas chamber? There must be a reason why I survived. There must be a reason, but what was it? I don’t know. There was a little girl in the ghetto who had an accident with the street car. She was paralyzed, and she was always home by herself. When I would come home from school, I would always visit her to see if I could help. I made it my business. It’s just my nature.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Well, first thing unfortunately, it isn’t the way we want it to be. Violence still goes on, but never ever ever again should people have to live through what I lived through. That should never happen again, ever.
Charles Silow

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