Oral History

Ruth Berkowicz Segal describes deciding to leave Warsaw shortly after the outbreak of war

When German forces invaded Poland in September 1939, Ruth's father fled to eastern Poland. Upon the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland, he fled to Lithuania. Ruth left Warsaw with two friends to find her father and later joined him in Vilna. After Soviet forces occupied Lithuania, Ruth and her father obtained transit visas for Japan, but only Ruth obtained a Soviet exit visa. Her father insisted she leave and not wait for him. Ruth traveled by the Trans-Siberian Railroad across the Soviet Union to Vladivostok. She arrived by ship in Japan; her father and uncles later joined her in Kobe, Japan. Ruth traveled to the United States during the war, on a ship carrying wounded soldiers from the front. Her mother, brother, and sisters perished in the Holocaust.


I decided to leave on the spur of the moment. Uh, a young man who was giving me Latin lessons came with his older brother -- he was 18, his brother was 21 -- came to say good-bye to us. They said that they were leaving Warsaw, as young men, they were leaving Warsaw. It was somewhere around the middle of October. And, uh, and, um, I decided on the spur of the...they came to say good-bye to our family, and on the spur of the moment I said to my mother, "Why don't I go with them? I'll contact our father. I'll tell him that we're alive and what happened and so on." And so on the spur of the moment, the next morning at five, six o'clock, I left. It was not a premeditated decision. It was all last minute and it was all based on the assumption that in two weeks I'll be back, or that the war will end very soon. There was no premonition or nothing that we will never see each other again.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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