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Ruth’s story

Ruth Rack was born in 1928 in Leipzig in Germany, home to famous composers like Bach, Wagner, Goethe and Mendelssohn. Before Kristallnacht, Leipzig had a population of over 13,000 Jews, including Ruth and her extended family. This is Ruth’s story.

“On the morning of 9 November 1938 aged 10, I went to school. There was nobody there. The doors were open and books were lying in the street outside.

I hurried home. Father decided we must leave urgently and seek shelter in the Polish Consulate. This was the end of our family life together.

We went past the Synagogue where my father was Cantor. It was on re. Jewish shops were smashed and people were being beaten in the street. Our neighbours, whom we’d considered friends, were yelling obscenities at us. It was horrible. When we arrived at the consulate, I fainted. My mind has blanked out the next six months – it’s too painful to remember.

That day is now known as Kristallnacht. It was followed by the Holocaust – 6 million Jews were murdered, including 1.5 million children.

Mission Australia - Ruth Rack 1
I’m one of the lucky ones. I escaped on a Kindertransport from Leipzig to London, a train full of unaccompanied children escaping Nazi Germany, via Holland, to England. I never saw my parents or family again. Not knowing what happened to them, not having closure was terrible.

In London, I was proud to represent my school at a concert under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. I loved singing with select choirs. I still perform today, at 86 years of age.

When the war broke out in 1939, I was evacuated from London to Devon. I was an unwelcome evacuee in an area where people had never met a Jewish person before. I was moved six or seven times. When I was 16 years old, I was billeted with a mother and daughter, while studying for my high school certi cate. My ambition was to go to Cambridge University.

The mother wanted to adopt me. That Christmas I attended midnight mass with the family as a respectful observer. It was a cold night and as we tramped back from church through the snow, the mother expressed her hatred of Jews. Affronted, I told her that I was Jewish!

The next day, I arrived home from town to and my suitcase and precious books scattered in the snow. Night fell. I walked back through woods and fell asleep under a tree: cold, lonely and frightened. Next day, the billeting of cer took me in temporarily until another billet could be found. After the war, I returned to London. I became an actress in the theatre where I met Peter. He’d served in the Royal Air Force. We were married and immigrated to Australia in 1950. We worked hard, built a house and had two children.

I auditioned for the Conservatorium of Music. I’ve always enjoyed singing but feel like I never reached my potential. I qualified for Cambridge University but couldn’t go because I had nowhere to live and nobody to guide me. One rainy winter night many years later, I was walking home from choir rehearsal when I saw a man lying in the doorway of a restaurant. He wasn’t dirty, old or drunk. He was homeless. It reminded me of that night in England, when I slept under a tree in the snow. I know what it’s like. I went home to my cosy house and two children sleeping in warm beds while this poor man was lying in the rain. It really affected me.

I rang the police who directed me to Mission Australia. I’ve been supporting them ever since. I used to donate $100 every year but in 1978, I redid my will. I put in a bequest to Mission Australia because I think what they’re doing for these young people is wonderful. I think the work they do is very important.”

Ruth still lives in Sydney and has recently become a great-grandmother. We are incredibly grateful for her support and we are delighted that she has decided to become a Mission Australia benefactor. With her generous donations we will be able to continue our work helping people in need, just like the homeless man Ruth encountered that rainy winter evening.

Contact Mission Australia for more information:
P: 1800 88 88 68


About the author

Alana Lowes

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