The copyright of all photographs belongs to individual interviewees. Please get in touch for more information
Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
Beginning of April 1939
Ruth Taylor was born in March 1923 in Berlin to parents Julius Berendt, merchant, and Margarete Berendt née Bing (from Cologne). Her mother was the daughter of the famous architect (Geheimer Baurat) Karl Bing, who designed the Cologne Jewish cemetery among many other important buildings. Ruth remembers visiting Cologne especially around Christmas and coming to see the famous Cologne cathedral. She describes her parents as “not young” anymore when they married in 1922 caused by her father’s imprisonment in Siberia during WWI. Ruth was the oldest child with a brother born 2.5 years later and she remembers a happy childhood in Berlin Tempelhof a predominantly non-Jewish neighbourhood. Her parents weren’t religious Jews although her father sometimes took her to synagogue. She remembers her girl-friend in school who stopped talking to her after the rise of the Nazis and how devastated that made her feel and she can still see the Hitler Youth marching down Paradestraße, where her family home stood. Her brother, Peter, came first on a Kindertransport to England and spent some time in Rowden Hall, Kent until he was evacuated and a school caretaker and his wife (somewhere near where Ruth lives today, West Midlands) took him in. They were very good to him and he showed them lifelong gratitude by supporting them in old age.
Ruth came on a Kindertransport in April 1939 and says that she was sure her parents would follow soon, therefore she wasn’t too scared but remembers the younger children crying heartbreakingly on the boat ride across the channel. She worked for a family as a maid which she doesn’t describe as a good experience. At the age of 18 she was finally able to start training as a nurse at Walsall General hospital. She got married soon after and although she had a son from this relationship she describes it as a mistake as she and her husband had incompatible concepts of marriage. Her son (born 1946) drowned tragically in Haifa in 1970 and she went regularly to visit his grave. A later relationship brought her happiness and she also found and outlet for her creative talent in jewellery making and painting. The latter she most likely inherited from her parents who painted for leisure and she even recovered one of her mother’s paintings, which was presumably left with a friend or neighbour in Berlin. Until her brother died in 2006 they had a close relationship and visited their parents mass grave in Riga together. He also supported her financially.
Ruth says the memories of her parents haven’t left her since she said good-bye to them so many years ago. Her parents last letters via the Red Cross speak of a very deep and loving relationship whose abrupt and violent ending traumatised Ruth for life. She lives with her dog Benji in Rugeley and still enjoys painting and jewellery making and meeting friends.
Berlin. Cologne. Karl Bing- Jewish Cemetery Cologne. Kindertransport. Rowden Hall.
And then one girl was called Hilde Zenk; she was my best friend. But she never, ever… did anything; whether she was a Nazi, I don’t know. Because she never, after Hitler came she never talked to me again. And that was because she was my real friend, I thought.Very.[upsetting] Ja. Because she was my first girlfriend and my only, more or less only girlfriend. Yes. And that was quite hard to swallow; you know, couldn’t quite understand. And she never sort of spoke to me again.
Well my father always said that he fought for the Germans in the First World War. He couldn’t see that they would do that to him. Of course they did do it to him.
Terrible, ja. My poor mother, I don’t know, it must have killed her. I don’t know how they lived. I remember them seeing me off, seeing my brother off first. And then me.I forget [which station Ruth left from]. I've forgotten. And of course she didn’t hardly speak, because of all the Nazis were on the platform. And then… it wasn’t until we came to the… Holland border, you know the border where Germany finished and Holland started. And it was tulip time; I remember that when I came. But my brother had been; he’d been earlier [her brother had been on an earlier Kindertransport]. And I remember the tulip fields after we could breathe, you know, after we left Germany.
It was terrible, cause especially when we had to cross on the boat, you know, the channel. And all those kids crying, those little ones, little - younger ones, three years, five years old. They were crying, and I remember the children crying. And…
Yes, I’ve still got the last Red Cross letter [from her parents] upstairs. …I mean, it’s awful, isn’t it? I mean it’s so terrible you can’t even talk about – what you know, you think you know. What you do know. So I mean from the time… we crossed the Channel, till now, it’s never gone away.
[Her husband's attitude towards her background] Ignorance. Complete ignorance. Ja. And the way they used to treat the wives over here apparently, you know in the mining area or in a working area. All that was expected of it was dinner on the table when they got home. And that’s about it. If you didn’t have the dinner on the table, you might as well as go and be dead.
I don’t know a normal life, which, we never had a normal life! The only bit of normal life was before when we went to school in Berlin. Otherwise it’s been sort of …and very often now anybody says to me, “You’re not…Where do you come from? You’ve got an accent.” After all the years over here.
Well, I know who I am. And I wouldn’t deny it. I’ve suffered for it and with it. It’s part of me! It’s part of me, I mean, my- even my Jewish jewellery. They’ve made jewellery for centuries haven’t they, Jewish people, because they weren’t allowed to do anything else. So I’ve taken it up anyhow. So I can’t deny…can’t deny my hair, my nose.