Ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day students from Year 9 watched a live webcast from the Holocaust Educational Trust, hearing from Ruth Posner, a Holocaust survivor. Broadcast to tens of thousands of students in schools all across the UK and lasting an hour, Ruth shared her frank, harrowing yet intriguing testimony of her life during the second World War, explaining how she survived and came to live in the UK, going onto become a famous actress and dancer, and to meet and marry her husband of 73 years.
Ruth spoke passionately and painfully about her life before, during and after the Nazi invasion of her home country Poland on 1 September 1939. Students were captivated and yet saddened and horrified to hear her remember how she came to escape the Nazis, a fate that sadly her parents were unable to avoid, both killed in Treblinka extermination camp by Hitler’s soldiers.
Hearing of the bravery shown by her and the Aunt who chose to help save her life after both of her own very young children were shot and killed by Nazis, of their journey living undercover and hiding their Jewish identities in order to save their own lives, our students were clearly moved by her account. She recalled many moments that she had experienced that no child should ever have to endure in their lives, until finally she told of the moment of liberation and her life living with a German family ahead of allies discovering and rescuing them.
Students were reminded that in a few years’ time, live interviews like this will become a thing of the past, and that today offered them a truly unique opportunity to see and hear from someone who has lived through and survived the horrors that many came to suffer during the second World War.
Describing the holocaust at “The greatest human stain in history”, Ruth’s testimony was truly moving and captivating, yet educational and something that undoubtedly will stay with these young minds for their whole lives. Ruth shared her hope that the holocaust and those that died as well as those who survived will be remembered, that lessons will be learned. She finished by explaining that she wanted everyone to know, to understand, to remain inquisitive and to remember. Despite everything she’s been through she explained, “Hate has not stayed in my heart. Talking to you about my life gives me hope – the only hope I have.”
Ruth Posner BEM (Source: The Holocaust Educational Trust)
Ruth Posner BEM was born in Warsaw in 1930 and lived with her parents Anna and Marian. Ruth’s family saw themselves as Poles first and foremost and she attended a Catholic school. By the end of the Holocaust, Ruth’s parents, uncles, aunts and cousins were all killed. After the Germans invaded, Ruth remembers being thrown out of her home and being sent to the Warsaw Ghetto. Ruth’s father arranged for her and an aunt to work in a factory making leather goods. It was hard, slave labour. The factory was located outside of town and helped keep Ruth away from the deportations from the ghetto for a time. Once a week the workers were marched to the town baths and on one of these occasions Ruth and her aunt escaped to the non-Jewish side. Ruth hid with a Catholic family but during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in 1943, she was taken prisoner and sent to Germany. She was imprisoned as a Polish Catholic as opposed to being imprisoned for being Jewish. Towards the end of the war, the Germans put Ruth on a train which ended up in the large town of Essen. The Allies were bombing the town and many around Ruth were killed. She hid on a local farm until the end of the war. After the war, Ruth came to the UK at the age of 16. She did not speak the language and for a while she lived in a hostel with other refugees. Despite her experiences, Ruth was determined to start a new life, learn English and go back to school. She was helped by the two German Jewish refugees who ran the hostel. Ruth eventually went to a good school and later to a college. After three years at the college she continued her training with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre. She became a member and stayed with them for 18 years, performing and teaching. Ruth married her husband Michael, who worked for UNICEF, and they moved to New York. Ruth first went to Hunter College (part of New York University) and after 2 years obtained an MA in Theatre Arts. She then changed profession and studied acting, forging a successful career which has lasted until the present. Miss Emily Tattoo Head of Philosophy, Religion and Ethics