Lodz (Poland), Auschwitz, Stutthof
Ruth Kent was born in 1930 in Lodz , Poland . Her parents were not necessarily orthodox, but she describes them as traditional. She had a large, very devoted, close knit family. She often mentioned that it was her family that kept her alive throughout her ordeals. Her family owned a bakery, and even after her father died in 1938, her mother still ran it. She had three brothers two older, one younger. Her mother also adopted her sister’s children, a boy and a girl, both older than Kent ‘s siblings, when their mother died. Her family was fairly wealthy, with a Polish maid and a Jewish housekeeper. Life was not easy, but she remembers her childhood as a beautiful one.
The war broke out when she was nine years old, on her way back home from vacation. The Germans occupied her city one day after the war started. They immediately deported the lawyers, doctors, teachers and rabbis. Because of this, she could no longer go to school. Synagogues were burned; she had to wear a yellow band, and a star on the front and back. She remembers the 9 am-5 pm curfew, and how hard it was on her, a young girl who wanted to play with her friends.
Her whole family was sent to a ghetto in Lodz , in the worst part of town. The ghetto was surrounded by barb wire. A great deal of anti-Semitism existed. One example she gives is how the Poles would taunt the members of the ghetto with food. The whole family had to work. Her brothers, because of their experience in the family bakery, worked in the bakery, and brought back the family extra bread. There was horrible malnutrition and disease, and since all the doctors had been deported earlier, getting sick was a death warrant. Kent describes her mother’s strength and how she gave a lot of herself, never complained, and kept the family together. Kent joined a Zionist group, which made life better. Her family didn’t know what happened in when people were deported, but they knew that whatever they were, the people sent never returned. She spent five years in that ghetto Kent was very fortunate in that her whole family was able to stay together the whole time.
In August 1944, during the evacuation of the ghetto, her family was sent on a cattle car, crammed full of about 125 people, to Auschwitz . Even though there was no room for sitting, Kent ‘s family was together, and her mom helped eased the pain. When they arrived, she saw some women who left their children, like luggage, in piles on the train. During the separation that occurred the first day at Auschwitz , she lost sight of her mother and all her brothers. She remained with her cousin Thala. Kent worried a lot about her mom. She remembers the ever present horrible smell. The first day, she saw a lot of women being marched on the other side of the barbed wire. She ran to it, was hit and spent the first night passed out. They were given soup, and every 2-3 days a piece of bread. She describes how there was never enough food. Kent spent five weeks in Auschwitz .
Kent , along with Thala, was deported to Stutthof on another cattle car. She says that compared to Auschwitz , it was like a resort. Being too young to work, she was separated from her cousin, who had become like a mother to her. She became depressed, and didn’t care about her own life anymore, and thus took many more risks. She started a trade business. She took bread from the sick, who couldn’t eat it, and gave it to the laborers. In return, she was given clothing to help keep the sick warm. One of the kapos liked her, which gave her many more freedoms, including more food and the ability to use the restroom whenever she wanted. Sometimes she would sing and dance for her kapo.
Five months after her arrival at Stutthof, the Russians sent the prisoners on a death march, since the Russians were approaching. They walked every day through snow with no food for three weeks, about 50 miles a day. One night the Germans crammed everyone into a barn in Heenow. The following morning, men came in saying that the guards were gone. They did not believe them. When they finally charged out, they saw the Russian tanks. She spent the night in a hospital, which was the only safe place. Kent felt no pity towards the dead German soldiers she saw in the streets. She expresses her extreme hatred towards the Germans, and how she could have killed any Germans she met.
She hitch-hiked to Lodz . Poles now occupied her home. She lived in an orphanage for a while, until she learned that her brothers had survived. Kent eventually met up with her brothers in Bad Nauheim, Germany . She had often wished she hadn’t survived, since she was alone. Thus, finding her brothers was the greatest day of her life. Five months later, she moved to the US , and five years later, they became citizens.
Ruth Kent often commented on the strength of her family, and says that she is still very close with her two brothers. Once she was separated from everyone at Stutthof, the only reason she was able to survive was that she knew that her two strong, good looking brothers would survive. She lived so that she could see them again. She tells us that not a day goes by when she does not think of her mom and brother, and all the other relatives who died. It took her 35 years to be able to speak about what she went through, but that she must speak up for those who didn’t survive, and to expose the tragedy.
Date: May 4, 1982
Length: 1 hour 2 minutes
Format: Video recording