Ruth Tosková

Escaped together with her father in 1939 to England. Her mother was taken to Terezin and then to Auschwitz, Neuengamme and Bergen-Belsen.

My father was determined not to stay. He told my mother, “I won’t stay here, and the child will come with me.” Illegally, we crossed the border to Poland and then went to England. My mother wanted to pack up our household and then follow. But this did not happen.

My time in England was very happy. I finished school there, but I was not interested in going to a university. I wanted to take part in the war – I wanted to fight. As a volunteer I joined the British army. Accent-free German was in demand. ruth-toskova At first I was engaged in air flight surveillance which was very interesting. After that I was assigned to a des-information group. With the war coming to an end, our work changed. Now we were needed as interpreters.

Four days after the concentration camps were liberated we came to Bergen-Belsen. Never, never in my life will I forget what I saw when we passed the camp. I saw walking specters lost in a world which was not theirs and which could not be ours. But in this inferno I found my mother.

It was merely intuition that made me ask an officer, “There isn’t anyone here by the name of Anna Ornstein, is there?” A young girl of about 20 heard someone mentioning my name; she looked at me in surprise and asked: “Your name is Ruth, Ruth Ornstein and you are from Prague?” “Yes, I am”, I replied. “And your Mother’s name is Anna and your father is called Willy.” I only said yes. The girl had been with my mother since Terezin, and she knew our family history to the smallest detail. She told me, “Your mother is here.” I did not want to believe her and replied, “There must be a mistake, my mother is dead.” In the last letter we received from her she had written that she was going to see her parents in Poland, but she wouldn’t stay with them. When we later learned of the concentration camps we gave up all hope.

Marieta, as the girl was called, went to my mother and prepared her carefully for our reunion. I waited outside and listened to their dialogue. But I could wait no longer and so went in. In front of me there lay a woman who was supposed to be my mother. At the age of 44 she had become an old woman. Toothless, weak and emaciated to the bone. I did not recognize her – she looked so terrible. But she recognized me at once, and fainted immediately. A doctor was called and he called gave her an injection. Soon she came to and could not believe the miracle; that I was standing next to her, alive. My mother recovered quickly. On the third day she asked me, “Ruth, you wouldn’t have a lipstick?”

Editor and translator, born September 8, 1925 in Premysl/Poland, 1 daughter.

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