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A survivor’s story
Ruth Minska Sender shares her journey through the Holocaust
The Hereld House for Jewish Life hosted Holocaust survivor Ruth Minska Sender last Sunday in honor of האושה םוי, Holocaust Remembrance Day. Sender shared her story with crowd of 102 people from all facets of the Quinnipiac community.
Born to Avromele and Nacha Minska in Lodz, Poland in 1926, Sender was the fourth of seven children. As a young girl, she and her family were deported to Auschwitz. Also known as Riva or Rifkele, Sender was the only one of her family to survive the Holocaust.
Throughout her presentation, she stressed the importance of appreciating and maintaining one’s identity. As an individual taken into a labor camp, she was stripped of her name and identity, separated from her family. Her head was shaved, her clothes were taken and replaced with a ubiquitous uniform and she was given the number 55082.
“It’s so important for me to remember my name, and I will never forget my name,” Sender said.
At the age of 16, Sender became the legal guardian for her three little brothers, by choice, showing her dedication to family.
At one point when Sender and her younger brother Laibele were sick and starving, her other brothers worked at a factory. While working, the brothers were supplied with a small ration of soup during their shifts, which they would store in their canteens and bring it home to dilute and share with their two sick siblings.
“That took a lot of love and a lot of devotion in a time when there was a lot of ugliness,” Sender said.
At a young age, Laibele passed away from tuberculosis in Sender’s arms and is the only member of her family to have a grave.
Because there is no record of the rest of her family, Sender said she is still searching for them.
“When you don’t know, you still look…we are still looking,” she said.
Sender said that the hopeful words of her mother got her through.
“As long as there is life, there is hope. That is my mother’s legacy,” Sender said.
In addition to these words, Sender’s home became somewhat of an underground library in the Warsaw ghetto to keep hopes alive, even though it was illegal to have books at this time. Neighbors could come borrow more than 300 books and, if the readers survived, they could return the books.
“Most of the readers did not survive, but the books did,” Sender said.
Sender believes it is crucial that young people know about the Holocaust, and feel that she is a good source of that information. More importantly, students should know what prejudice leads to.
“[It feels] very important, because I know that they are the leaders of the future and they should know what hate and prejudice and indifference lead to so they can be better leaders,” Sender said. “I am very happy to speak to schools, although I speak to people of all different ages.”
Rabbi Reena Judd found out about Sender through Ori Laby, a sophomore whose grandfather is Sender’s significant other. Laby says that it is important that we learn about our history so we do not repeat it.
“It is important that anything like the Holocaust never happens again,” Laby said. “As Ruth shares her story, along with other survivors, more and more people get a better account of the horrors that the millions of people faced.”
Sophomore Andrew Geller says it was an honor to hear Ms. Sender speak.
“What many of us forget is that it is a true privilege to meet and hear the story of a holocaust survivor. Our children will most likely not have that opportunity, as this generation of holocaust survivors is quickly fading,” Geller said. “Hearing Ms. Sender’s story is so important to the Quinnipiac Community because it can inspire each of us to live by the motto of “never again.” “Never again” meaning to take action to prevent violence and hate within our community.
Geller, who leads the Friday-night Shabbat services at the Hereld House, says he was very pleased with the turnout last Sunday and he has never seen the house so crowded.
Sender now has four children, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She currently lives in Long Island, New York and has written three books: “The Cage,” “To Life” and “The Holocaust Lady.”
CORRECTION: This article was updated on April 27 because Hereld was misspelled.