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Ruth Rogoff

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
3 September 1939
Interview number:


Dr Rosalyn Livshin

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Ruth Rogoff (nee Biron) was born in 1933 in Zwickau, Germany to a Polish father and Rumanian mother. Her paternal grandparents were Chassidic Jews. Her grandfather was appointed as Shochet/Rebbe/Chazan in Zwickau when her father was 5 and so her father grew up there. He suffered discrimination from the German Jews who looked down on Ostjuden. He was the oldest of 3 boys and 3 girls and they were active in the Zionist movement and attended Maccabi. He worked in the clothing business. Her mother had 3 brothers. She came to Germany to one of them when she was 18. Ruth’s parents met and married in December 1931. Ruth was the eldest and her brother Zalman was born 1936. 

Ruth’s father would smuggle people over the Czech border since they lived nearby. He was denounced and arrested in 1937/8 and thrown into prison. Ruth has few memories of Germany since the family left soon after her father was released. They smuggled themselves over the Czech border and went to live in Prague. They lived in the 7th district. Her grandparents were thrown out of Germany in Oct 1938 and went to Krakow. Ruth has a few memories of Prague, such as of the flat and the park. 

When Germany overran Czechoslovakia in March 1939 her father fled and he managed to gain passage on a Balkans Ship taking political refugees. He was taken to Britain. Her mother trekked around the embassies trying to obtain visas. She would not send Ruth on the Kindertransport without Zalman who was too young. The British embassy was offering 2 visas and decided to award them to the winners of a cookery competition. Ruth’s mother cooked a Shabbos dinner and won a visa. They left Prague on 30 Aug 1939 as if going on a day trip since they had no exit visa. They passed through Germany by train and entered Holland from where they came to Harwich. They arrived at Liverpool St Station at 11am 3 Sept 1939 as the sirens started. 

They went to a shelter and then to a hostel for refugees and her mother went from hostel to hostel looking for her husband until she found him at Hyams Park Hostel. They wanted to find somewhere to be together and to make it easier they sent Ruth with the “Schonfeld” children who were evacuated to Caerphilly in Wales. Ruth was devastated. She did not want to be separated from her parents. She was placed in a non Jewish home and behaved badly in the hope of being sent home. At some stage she was also in a hostel with Kindertransport children in Windermere. She was happier there. Her parents were billeted with a non-Jewish family in Chelmsford. They had to move from there in 1940 because it was near the coast. They chose Leeds by sticking a pin in the map. They arrived together with the 2 children in October 1940 and first rented a room and then a house. Ruth attended Cowper St School and at 10 won a scholarship to Allerton High School. She loved school but experienced antisemitism at Allerton. 

Her father got a job with a Jewish wool merchant and went to night school. He was also a firefighter. Her mother took in lodgers in the house in Hillcrest Ave. Then her father worked for the JNF and later the JPA. He was active in founding the Jewish Day School in Leeds, which began in 1956. He belonged to the Chassidishe Shul. He brought over his sister and husband after the war. Ruth was a staunch member of Bnai Akivah and this was her life. She went to camps and made lifelong friends. Her family were orthodox and she maintained this way of life. She supported the Irgun and Stern Gang. Ruth’s brother went on Hachsharah to Thackstead. He studied agriculture at Uni and made aliyah as an agronomist. Ruth went to University to study languages and took a teaching diploma. 

She met her husband David Rogoff from London through the BA and married in 1955. He was studying to be a dentist. They moved to London, where Ruth taught at Hasmonean. Then they returned to Leeds where she taught English at Leeds High Schools. At one time she worked for Radio Leeds on Literary programmes and in 1958 she became editor of the Jewish Gazette in Leeds. She took a Masters degree in English Lit and went back to teaching. She became head teacher in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the Jewish School for 10 years. She belonged to Emunah. Her husband qualified as a dentist and belonged to the Jewish Dental Association. He also was a member of the Chevra Kadisha. 


Full Interview


I remember getting to England. And my first memory of England, it was Sunday, 3 September 1939, the day the war broke out. We arrived at Liverpool Street Station. And as the train slowed down and we were getting out of the train, the sirens went. When the sirens went, everybody started running; we had to go to a shelter. We went with the crowd, but there was also a Jewish Refugee Committee on the platform, and they went with us.

We didn’t know where my father was, we had no idea. My father came to England in June or July of 1939. When we arrived, we were put into a hostel, and the first thing my mother did was to go round the men’s hostels to see if anybody knew. She went with a photograph, if anybody had seen him, heard of him, knew of him, knew what had happened to him. ‘Cause I mean that’s what people did. And she knocked on this door, in this Highams [Lane] hostel. And my father opened it. And that was- That is quite remarkable, isn’t it? And that’s how they found each other.

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