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Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
End July 1939
Ruth Davies (nee Hasholom) was born in February 1925 in Lötzen, East Prussia. Her mother was from Kovno and her father from Vilna. Her father had been a Prisoner of War in Germany during the First World War. He stayed in Germany and became a tailor and met and married her mother. Ruth was the first child. The family lived in a 2-roomed bungalow where conditions were primitive. Water came from the pump outside and the outside toilet had to be emptied. Ruth attended the local school but suffered antisemitism especially after Hitler came to power. She had to watch antisemitic films shown at school and their few non-Jewish friends stopped playing with her and her sisters. They were taunted by the boys from the Boys School on their way to and from School. Her father’s firm had to close and he worked for himself. Their landlord threw them out and they literally had nowhere to go. He allowed them a little extra time and they found a 2-roomed third floor flat. At Kristallnacht their synagogue was burnt down and her father was put in prison. He came out and had no work. He tried to work digging roads and came back with bleeding hands. Ruth had no school and she darned stockings for a family emigrating.
Eventually she and her sisters got a place on the Kindertransport. They travelled to Konigsberg, then to Berlin, and then to Hamburg and caught the SS Washington to Southampton. From there they went by train to London. There was a 6-month old baby amongst the group. From London they went to Liverpool to a cousin of her mother’s but after 3 days they discovered they were not welcome. Her younger sister was taken in by another Liverpool family, who was kind to her. Shaina went to a hostel in Waterloo Road, Manchester and then went to College to learn dressmaking. Ruth stayed with the family for a while acting as domestic but was very unhappy. She then moved elsewhere and got a job in munitions. Eventually she came to Manchester and spent 2 weeks in the hostel and then moved in with a family as a home help. She was there until she married but was unhappy because the lady of the house was a schizophrenic.
She met her husband through a shidduch and married late in 1948. He was from Hightown and he worked in a small business. He attended Manchester Yeshivah in the evenings. She became a British citizen on marriage. She davened before being married in the Shtiebel of the Shotzer Rebbe in Wellington Street East since the family she stayed with also went there. They rented part of a house in Hightown but after the first child, they moved to a condemned house in Waterloo Road. They then moved to Great Cheetham Street West before the next child was born. This was a large house and they let off a couple of rooms. They moved again after the 7th child to Kings Road. Her husband was working as Shammas in the Roumanian Shul on Vine Street and he later became the Secretary of a shul.
When they stopped us from going to school, I was thirteen. I knew how to darn stockings beautifully; it was like a weave. Someone had a great big pile of stockings to darn... I was occupied with that.
On the S.S. Washington we had orange juice. Oh that was delicious. Never had it before. In Germany it was guns before butter; you just couldn’t get that. I remember the orange juice; it was beautiful.
I was an enemy alien. [If] I wanted to go out of Liverpool, I had to ask the chief constable for permission. I was allowed in the radius of five miles from where I lived. I had the opportunity to go to the Isle of Man with a family and asked for permission. They wouldn’t give permission. Somebody offered me a passport of somebody else who looked like me. I said, ‘No, I rather not take it’, and didn’t go. I never wanted to be in trouble with the police
Well, when we came to England we only spoke German, because you could only speak a few words of English, what we learnt before we came over. The one word that amused us was handkerchief. We couldn’t believe that a little thing like a hankie got such a long word. So anyway, I know that, and then mishpocha said ‘now you’re in England, you speak English’. We couldn’t speak English, we weren’t allowed to speak German, so we didn’t speak. We didn’t talk, that’s it. I learnt English with the newspaper… slowly, slowly, you know, the newspaper, and then later on I read all the kids schoolbooks, you know, and gradually, gradually, I can read English, my English writing is very bad, but I can read, yes. I went to night school at one time, but they learnt poetry and that was not for me, I don’t like poetry, no.
My sister and I, we vowed to ourselves if, when the time comes, and we are lucky, we were to meet our parents again, we wouldn’t tell them how unhappy we were here, and we’d never write them that we were unhappy here. They didn’t give us… they didn’t feed us properly either, didn’t clothe us and didn’t feed us. We had no cardigan, my hands and my sister’s hands were chapped up to here, we had chill blains, and we didn’t have any winter clothing, and I don’t remember getting any shoes or stockings or anything, but we wore what we had.