Departing Berlin as if for a weekend trip

Departing Berlin as if for a weekend trip

This is an except from The Ruby Family Histories (2006), written from Helga Ruby's point of view. 

I must say that my mother performed magnificently in that crisis. As already pointed out, she had been a society lady who left all business to my father. And yet, when things were really desperate, after we had been cheated, she did not fall apart, but instead, turned herself around and did whatever she had to do to get us out of there.

That morning she took stock of our situation and said calmly we would have to leave immediately. She then contacted Mr. Meisner and told him what had happened. In a little while, he called back to say that he had gotten us train tickets to Munich and the train was leaving in an hour and a half. He told us, “Don’t take anything with you; just get on that train with a couple of small bags, like you are going away for the weekend.”

We appealed to my grandmother, Betty Wolgemuth, to come with us, but she declined, as she had all along. She said she was a German, first and foremost, and would never leave the Fatherland. She had always said that Hitler was a passing phenomenon, that Germany was too decent a country to suffer such barbarism for long. I don’t know if she still believed that in 1938, but she projected a sense of fatalism.

Betty met us at the train station, but we had to keep apart and not embrace. We had to hold our emotions and not cry, because we didn’t want to attract any attention to ourselves. She just gave us a peck on the cheek, as though we were going away for the weekend. Of course, we would never see her again.

As will be seen, we left in her possession $20,000 my father had been hiding with the idea that she would send it to us when we needed it. Two years later, she managed to do just that and that money quite literally saved our lives.

In Munich, we stayed at the house of a rabbi, who had been contacted on our behalf by my father’s rabbi in Berlin, while the arrangements were being made to smuggle us out of Germany. We were supposed to be there only two to three days, but that turned into a week because I contracted pneumonia.

He was a very good man and he and his wife took good care of me.