Zogut (Hellner), Ruthe

Zogut (Hellner), Ruthe

Berlin (Germany), Milan

Ruthe was born in Berlin, in 1923 to Polish parents who were living in Berlin.

Her parents had Polish passports but they never became German citizens.

Although she saw Nazis in uniforms, Ruthe said she lived in a dream world during the difficult times of the late thirties.  She attended Jewish school.

Samuel Lifshitz lived across the street from them and was able to make all the appropriate arrangements for her family to leave Berlin.  In December, 1937, he arranged to have her father go to Italy.  Shortly thereafter, the Nazis came to their home and told them to leave both their home and store.  Ruthe, her mother and sister were allowed to take their furniture to a rented apartment nearby.

In May of 1938, Mr. Lifshitz told her mother there was room for one additional fourteen-year-old to be transported to America, via a boat to New York.  Her family and extended relatives took her to the train on May 3rd.  When she arrived in New York, the Jewish Federation gave Ruthe money and a sizeable allowance: $1.00 per week and $150 for clothing.

Ruthe’s social worker took her to Bay City, Michigan for a weekend, where she stayed with a family named Harrison.  They invited her to stay permanently and refused to take any money from the Jewish Federation.

They were parents to her.

In 1938-1941, she wrote her parents from Detroit, where she had moved.  She discovered that her parents were both in Italy and her sister was in Scotland.

Both parents had been sent to a concentration camp by Mussolini.

Although FDR did nothing for the Jews, according to Ruthe, he finally decided to bring one thousand of them to a camp in Oswego, New York. Her parents were fortunate to be in that group.  They stayed in the camp from August, 1944 through January, 1946.

President Truman decided to take all 982 Jews into the U.S. through Canada.  It was discovered at that time, that Ruthe’s father had a spot on his lung, so he was refused citizenship.  Ruthe became an American citizen at the age of twenty-one.

At this time, Ruthe became engaged to Saul Zogut and she, Saul and her future in-laws went to Oswego to meet her parents.  They lived in barracks there, which her mother had decorated with an Oriental rug she had brought with her from Europe.  Their mess hall served kosher food.

Ruthe’s hairdresser had introduced her to her brother and they got engaged four months later.  He and his family were born in Detroit.

Ruthe and Saul have two daughters, (see NOTE) Jacqueline and Diane and her sister now lives in Buffalo, NY.

Ruthe brought the following pictures with her:

1.   Their “deli” in Berlin which sold mostly wine, liquor and pastry.
2.   Her parents in Milan
3.   Her parents pre-1941
4.   Her family Seder in 1936 with Mr. Lifshitz
5.   Her parents and Ruthe in Oswego

NOTE: At the end of the interview, Ruthe mentions a son, Bob, who had not been mentioned previously.

Interview information:
Interviewer: Dorothy Medalie
Date: 6/2/1999
Length: 30 minutes.
Format: Video recording