Oral History

Ruth Berkowicz Segal describes journey to and arrival in Japan

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.


We came to Vladivostok, and I have very little memory because I don't think we were there more than overnight. They put us on a Japanese fishing boat, and, uh, with an ice-cutter in front of us because it was January and it was all frozen. So for the first 24 hours of our trip, it was on that Japanese fishing boat. It was all ice. And there was a... a Russian, uh, ice-breaker that was in front of us cutting the ice and... and so on. On the boat the conditions were terrible. We were all seasick. I mean it was a little boat and on a very up and down type of situation. And also they... they fed us Japanese food. We didn't know anything about the rice and the fish and all that. And so nobody ate and everybody was just prostrate. I mean we were just lying flat. And... and the ice-breaker turned around and as sick as we were we just burst out. It was deliverance. Germans are behind us. The Russians are behind us. And now, of course, Japan was a big unknown. We didn't know. But the entrance was beautiful. Everything was green. It was in Tsuruga, Japan. Everything was green. We walked into a coffee shop and it had Beethoven, they had play... were playing classical European music. I couldn't believe it. Anyway, and then we went from there to Kobe.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum
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