Oral History

Ruth Webber describes the Auschwitz crematoria

Ruth was four years old when the Germans invaded Poland and occupied Ostrowiec. Her family was forced into a ghetto. Germans took over her father's photography business, although he was allowed to continue working outside the ghetto. Before the ghetto was liquidated, Ruth's parents sent her sister into hiding, and managed to get work at a labor camp outside the ghetto. Ruth also went into hiding, either in nearby woods or within the camp itself. When the camp was liquidated, Ruth's parents were split up. Ruth was sent to several concentration camps before eventually being deported to Auschwitz. When Ruth became sick, she was sent to the camp infirmary, managing to escape just before a selection. After the war, Ruth lived in an orphanage in Krakow until she was reunited with her mother.


I don't know, as a child I kind of accepted things as they were happening, because there was nothing I could do about it but try to stay ahead, to survive. For some reason or other that was the most important thing, is to survive. That's all you heard everybody say: "Oh, we've got to survive and tell the world what is going on." I mean, this is, that was it. I mean, if only for that reason, just, because it was just unbelievable. And this idea that, that you go up in smoke became a rea...a reality, because people would come, a transport would come in with a lot of people, and they would move into a certain direction, and then they would disappear. They would never come out. So you realized that something is happening to them, and seeing the, the chimneys smoking continuously, especially after a transport--even at my age you kind of put two and two together and realize that yes, this is where you go, behind those, that fence that has the, uh, the blankets on it and the trees covering something that goes on behind there, that you go in and you don't come out anymore. Exactly what was happening I don't know, all I knew is that you come out the chimney. And as the, uh, crematoriums were working, it, it left such a sweet taste in your mouth that you didn't even feel like eating. During these times I can honestly say I, at times I wasn't even hungry because it was so sickening.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
View Archival Details

This content is available in the following languages

Thank you for supporting our work

We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.