Kingwood, TX – On a Sunday morning at Kingwood Bible Church, Holocaust survivors Ruth and Larry Steinfeld shared their remarkable stories of escaping death in Nazi Germany. Their stories of tragedy and survival gave church members a greater sense of purpose in taking part in the upcoming March of Remembrance in Kingwood on Saturday, April 26.
“We have history here today”, said Pastor Woody Woodward, commenting on the unique opportunity to witness the Steinfelds and Holocaust survivor, Alex Pollak, meeting with World War II veterans, and KBC church members, Bob Roush and Hugh Saye. With the declining number of living Holocaust survivors and World War II veterans, it was special for these few, who overcame in a time of great trial and hardship, to meet each another.
Ruth’s personal story of overcoming is one of great loss, and of finding renewed life in facing the past and experiencing the freedom forgiveness brings.
At the young age of 5, Ruth’s home was raided by the Nazis on this first night of Kristallnacht in 1938. That night, her father was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where he was kept for several months.
Almost two years later, Ruth’s family was loaded into a cattle car and transported from Mannheim, Germany, to a concentration camp in occupied France. Upon arrival, the men were separated from the women. That was the last time she saw her father.
Ruth and her sister were later rescued by an underground group pretending to be Red Cross, as her mother made the decision to let go of all she had left, her two little girls. Ruth, crying and begging her mother to let her stay, boarded a bus by night with her sister, and watched her mother wave good-bye. They never saw her again. Of this, Ruth recounts, “She gave us our life twice.”
For the next several years, Ruth fled from the Nazis and ended up with a poor Christian family in a remote town. Eventually her identity was found out and she was forced to move on. In 1946, her grandfather in New York found her name in the paper and brought her to America.
Throughout these trials and many years afterward, Ruth lived in a “ruthless” denial of her past. So when faced with the opportunity to go to Israel for a gathering of Holocaust survivors in 1981, she asked, “How can I now face that which I have suppressed for so long?”
After facing the reality of her past in Israel, Ruth returned to Germany where she visited her childhood home, and in the embrace of the woman living there, she began to experience forgiveness. As she forgave the people who had caused her such pain, Ruth began to be able to see herself as a child of God, when for so long she had felt as if she were no one’s child.
She attributes the new sense of peace within herself as coming “out of accepting and forgiving.” She has come to experience that which Pastor Woodward stated so well, “When you forgive someone, you set a prisoner free. And then you find out you were that prisoner.”
Ruth continued on to France where she was reunited with the daughter of the family who had sheltered Ruth and her sister. She asked her childhood friend, “How was it Paulette, that your family, your parents, were brave enough to give a home to two little Jewish girls in occupied France, knowing the consequences?” Paulette’s answer was simple, “Wouldn’t you?”
Ruth has faced her past, and has forgiven, but she will never forget. She encourages others to remember as well, and to ensure a similar tragedy is never allowed again. “I survived because of the goodness in people, in spite of the inhumanities, and because of that I am involved with the March of Remembrance…and to remember, because history could repeat itself.”
About the March of Remembrance
The Holocaust March of Remembrance in Kingwood is an opportunity for the community to remember and to honor those who suffered not so long ago. It will begin with an opening ceremony and Memorial service with testimonies from Al Marks, survivor of four concentration camps, and Steve Finkelman, a second generation survivor. Immediately following the service, the march will begin at Christ the King Lutheran Church and pass by the Veteran’s Honor Garden Memorial before completing the loop and ending with fellowship, music and refreshments.
Ruth and Larry Steinfeld serve as National Advisors and Liaisons to the March of Remembrance, which is held in over 50 cities in the United States. This is the third year it has been held in the Houston area, with marches planned in Baytown, Brenham, Kingwood, and Webster on April 26, and in Meyerland on April 27. A listing of Marches across the US can be found on the March of Remembrance website.