Dire news from Poland, 1945

Vera (left) and Ruth - the last picture taken of the two together in the countryside in 1939

Vera (left) and Ruth – the last known picture of them together, in the mountains in 1939

Days after the war with Japan ended, my mother finally found out the truth. She, Ruth Neumeyer, was in Cambridge through much of the war. Ruth always spoke of those times with great affection: lots of friends, full of life and plenty going on.

As an alien she was restricted in what work she could do but it didn’t seem to stop her from living things to the full. She had done nursery training at Wellgarth in Wiltshire, and later resided at 9 Adams Road, Cambridge, as housekeeper to Professor and Ethel Ginsberg.

She kept up her interests in theatricals with backstage work at the ADC Theatre, and did fire-watching duties from the tower of Great St Mary’s. Her closest friends included Lore and Erica Weiss (twins, who had arrived  from Vienna; they still live in Cambridge) and Trude Deutsch (an actress).

The wartime diaries

Ruth's wartime diaries

The diary entry for 17 September, 1945, her 22nd birthday. On the left-hand page she records in August ‘a startling, awful and terrifying invention’, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, and the subsequent surrender of the Japanese

Ruth kept a diary for most of her life, and those during the wartime years oscillate between  German and English. Her 22nd birthday, on 17 September 1945, was far from a joyful experience, as she learned almost for certain that her mother Vera Neumeyer had perished in a concentration camp in Poland:

There is much to be recorded of last week, when I spent a supremely wonderful holiday with Leon [Leon Long, her boyfriend], but before anything else I must thank God for His inestimable Love and Wisdom.

Almost officially there has been some news about my mother. Raymond’s letters were awaiting my arrival at No 19 [Adams Road, Cambridge], but my darling Lore [Lore Weiss] has prepared me before. Everybody has been so charming to me that I can only shed tears for the love those true friends show, but yet I cannot believe it. Aunt Mary said only yesterday that when my hope was smallest there would be some joyful news from a corner of Poland. It is not this however entirely that gives me such almost unexpected supernatural support in the grief I should feel about this.

At times there is a storm coming up, but how can anyone let misery win victory over the bounteous mercy of God. Those friends I have are more dear than ever I dared to imagine before.

Mrs Ginsberg, who is Ethel to me now, was so sweet that my tears started to fall. My Ruth 1940s_0001sweetest Leon was with me while I read the news about mother. She did Zwansgsarbeit [forced labour] at a factory and lived with my father although separated from him. I cannot understand this. Then she was deported to Poland in 1942 and is at a place from where there is little news (Lublin). 99% of hope is dead but I will trust in God and face everything through the strength in Jesus Christ. Leon was such a comfort and understands my thoughts so well. It just hasn’t sunk in yet.

Ethel gave me some hot gin and lemonade and a tablet, which seems to affect my brain and a dizzy kind of action. I think I must stop before I drop my pen.

There are no further diary entries beyond this until the following July. We know Ruth suffered from jaundice in the intervening period. I don’t think she lost her faith after that, but the Christian references aren’t so strong in what she subsequently wrote.


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