If you’ve had the chance to read my book, 'The Paris Effect', you’ve met Ruth. Feisty, disturbed, charming, haughty, fun, naughty, always interesting, she is the linchpin of the book.
Although The Paris Effect is a work of fiction, the spirit of Ruth is based in large part on someone near and dear to my heart, my Mom. Most people simply knew her as Rosemary Ruwe or Mrs. Stuart Ruwe, but her real name was Ruchla Rechtman Ruwe. Sometimes.
During WWII in Paris, she assumed another identity. As a young Jewess, she was in harms way 24/7. Early in the war, the Jews in France were wary of the rumors about supposed Nazi atrocities taking place on the eastern front. Unfortunately, most of them remained in denial. They had heard vague stories of the “work camps” and hoped to avoid them at all costs. Little did they know that a madman could dream up a plan to extinguish a whole group of people, a madman who would grow his followers into a nation of haters.
In the early days of the war, my grandparents worried about these things – but not too much. They were mostly concerned for their oldest children who were of age to “work.” They and their youngest three children dutifully reported to the higher authorities to be assigned their yellow stars that identified them as members of the Jewish “race.” They followed the rules and of course we know the end of that story. All perished in Auschwitz.
Luckily, my mom’s older sister had married a Frenchman of means and he produced three cartes d'identité so his wife, my mom and their oldest brother could assume new names and religious affiliation. That’s when my mom became Rose Marie Regnier, a name borrowed from an actual person whose life was lost at a young age. She didn’t have to wear the yellow star. She was never branded with a hideous tattoo. But believe me, she was forever scarred.
A close friend recently questioned whether my mom was a Holocaust survivor. She felt since she hadn’t been interred in a concentration camp, she shouldn’t be labeled a survivor. That statement stopped me cold. I didn’t know what to say. My mom’s life was consumed by the ugliness of war, the cruelty of people, the unimaginable atrocities committed for no good reason. She worried constantly about her own new family in America. If your grandmother on your mother’s side is Jewish, then you, too, (no matter your religious preference) are a Jew. Secrecy, guilt, and sadness followed her all the way to the U.S.A. and, in spite of leading an exemplary life and creating a wonderful home for her family, she never fully recovered. The answer is yes,
Ruchla Rechtman Ruwe / Rose Marie Regnier / Mom
was a Holocaust survivor.
I hope and pray my story about Ruth did her justice. It would be impossible, really, but I tried.