To all young people, this is what you need to know about the holocaust

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To: All Young People

From: Ruth Gasten

Charity: Student Education Loan Fund

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To All Young People,

In 1933, everything changed for my family and Jewish families like mine. That was the year I was born and it was also the year Adolf Hitler came into power.

We lived in a small town in Germany called Nieder-Ohmen.

Ruth was born the same year Hitler came to power, 1933.

It was a bad time all over Europe and in the United States because 1929 was the start of the Great Depression. Germany not only had the Great Depression to contend with but after World War I the allies asked Germany to pay reparations. They had to pay a huge amount of money for starting World War I. As a result, there was runaway inflation, which caused financial ruin for so many people. Hitler and the Nazi Party blamed everything on the Jews and the communists. That’s how a campaign of hate, fear and discrimination against the Jews, among other groups, started.

Hitler and the Nazis called us cockroaches and vermin.

My father’s farmer friend told him, “Don’t worry, Hitler is an idiot. He’s never going to get elected again. He is terrible. He’ll be gone soon.”

But the German people did not speak up when Hitler started his program of discrimination.

As a result, Germany didn’t have another election. Instead, Hitler became a dictator.

That’s how the Holocaust came to be. And even as a little girl, I could feel the fear around me.

Even as a little girl, I could feel the fear around me.

The Hitler Youth used to walk down the street at these weekly meetings. They would march in their big boots and they would sing these military songs. If they saw lights on in a Jewish house, they would throw stones at the window. My parents would turn out the lights. In our dining room we had sheer curtains. So they’d stand behind the curtains where they couldn’t be seen. I knew they were frightened.

Ruth could sense her parents fear at a very young age.

When the Nazis became more powerful non-Jews could no longer fraternize with Jews.

The Nazis created the Nuremberg Laws, which took away a lot of our rights. Young Jewish adults could not marry Christians. Jews could no longer go to public parks or state schools. Jews couldn’t work in education or government.

Then, of course, there was November 9th, 1938. That night was called Kristallnacht – the Night of Broken Glass. All over Germany, the Nazis arranged for Hitler Unions, members of the Brown Shirts (the young army guys) and punks and hooligans, to go into Jewish homes, Jewish businesses and Jewish synagogues to wreak havoc. They broke things. They took things.  My mother, my father and I went to a little synagogue. They overturned the furniture. All the prayer books were thrown into the street. They tried to burn our books, but some were just charred. I know this because the next day my mother, my father and I went to our little synagogue, and I saw it. My parents were horrified.

At four years old, Ruth was witnessing and experiencing hate towards Jews.

A week or two after that, there was a loud knock on the front door of our house, loud enough to wake us all up. There were two members of the SS standing there.

They ordered my father, “Joseph, get dressed. We’re taking you to a work camp.”

My mother shouted, “What are you talking about? What kind of work camp? What do you mean?”

She was frantic.

One of the men said, “We don’t know anything about it, but it’s called Buchenwald.”

Subscribe To The Unsealed to hear what Ruth found to be the key to happiness despite experiencing personal losses and childhood trauma.

At that time, at the end of 1938, I don’t think Buchenwald had the gas chambers for killing people.  But Hitler was planning to have a big army with tanks and trucks, and those rural roads were pretty small.  So at this time he had many people at the camp, including my father, work on making the roads larger. People were malnourished and literally worked to death.

Even though there was a lot of trauma during this time of my life and my parents’ lives, I want you to know I also witnessed a lot of courage and kindness.

After my father was taken to Buchenwald, my next-door neighbor knocked on our door the next morning and told my mother that he would take our cow to pasture and milk it for us. My mother was very grateful.

At night, after it was dark, we started getting little packages of food, usually sweets, on our front porch from neighbors. They never signed their names because they would get in trouble for fraternizing with Jews but they wanted to show us they cared.

Ruth with her cousin Carola, who also survived the Holocaust.

There was another person who lived a couple of doors away named Anna. When it snowed, she used to take me for rides on her sled. I would sit on the sled in front of her. She’d put her arms around me and hold me. I just loved it. Then, she wasn’t allowed to go sledding with me anymore because she couldn’t fraternize with the Jews. So instead of sledding during the day, she would come to get me when the moon was out. We’d go for our sled ride in the dark when nobody would see us. If she had gotten caught with me, she could have been sent to a prison or a concentration camp. She risked her freedom to make me smile.

Even some of the Nazis showed kindness. That’s actually how we made it out. It’s how we made it to America.

My mother sent a letter to her aunt, who lived in Chicago. She wasn’t even sure if she had the right address, so when we got a brown envelope from my aunt saying she was willing to support us coming to America, my mom was excited and happy.

Immediately, my mother made an appointment with the SS. That’s who ran the camps. We went to their headquarters by train and I still remember that interview with the commandant of the SS so vividly. I remember what the office looked like. It was a nice office with an oriental rug on the floor and a huge wooden desk. The commandant, who was a middle-aged man in a well appointed uniform, sat behind the desk.

My mother showed the him the letter from my aunt and said, “We can leave Germany if you will release my husband. We will leave as soon as possible.”
He read the letter. Then, he looked at me.  I had with me a little rag doll that my mother made for me.   He asked me my name.

Nervously I replied, “My name is Ruthie, and I’m five and a half. And my doll’s name is Heidi. She’s two.”

He told me he had a daughter the same age as me.

He sat quietly for a few minutes. Then he turned to my mother and said, “I will have your husband released.”

We left for America shortly after. That likely saved all of our lives.

While many people showed a lot of courage to simply be kind to Jews like me and my family, you must understand that it didn’t have to be this way. Hitler and the Nazis should never have been able to become so powerful.

It is so important that when and if you see injustice, you don’t sit back and do nothing. When you see a bully, it may not be smart to go after the bully yourself, but tell somebody. Take some action. I want you to be alert and involved citizens, and I want you to start now. From my bitter experiences in Germany, I know that democracy only works if citizens care about what’s going on and make informed choices.

Ruth with her daughter, Amy and granddaughter, Katie.

Fighting against injustice is not only best for others, but it’s best for you, too.

When I went back to Germany many years later, a social worker told us that his grandfather couldn’t get a job, so someone suggested he reach out to the Nazi party. They hired him to do construction.  But later on, they wanted him to work at a concentration camp.

He said, “No, I won’t do that.”

They said, “OK, you don’t have to do it. But if you don’t work at the camp, we’ll take your wife and children to the camp.”

If you don’t stop evil when it starts, it may progress to a point where you have no choice but to be a part of evil or a victim of it.

I am not telling you about my past and our world’s history to scare you but to make sure you understand that even though Hitler is gone, it’s up to you to make sure another Hitler doesn’t rise to power again.

Always stand up for what is right,

Ruth Gasten,

Written with Lauren Brill

Respond to my letter. I want to hear from you. What have you done to stand up for what is right in the world? Does my letter inspire you? If so, how?

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One thought on “To all young people, this is what you need to know about the holocaust

  1. Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.

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Nothing like maintaining a positive outlook! When i need to fight off despair i set goals. It is a great way to fight off negative thoughts and feeling!

Very interesting! Opinion at a later date!

Crazy that this still goes on. I fear for my safety almost all the time. Black or brown males are subject to arrest and violent behavior. I just read a article where a former New York cops claims they had to arrest more people of color to get a promotion. This is sick and I'm tired of living in fear. People are going to start fighting back.

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I think me and your grandpa would have been friends. I been a type 1 diabetic since three years old. I would have said the same thing waking up and seeing two nurses. Do I get to choose. I'm pretty sure I've done that before.

I have learned over my Fifty-Eight years of life, and more specifically over the last 10 that FDR's words about fearing only fear itself ring true; to me, they do, anyway. And, at the same time, how the words of the 23rd Psalm comfort me and my abundant faith in G-d allows me to fear only fear, knowing full well that He is always with me. Growing up in a Non-Orthodox, yet Observant Jewish family nicely brings both together and not only makes me feel more protected but commands me to believe so. You see, I have lived a different kind of life, as we all have to some degree, but mine changes daily. Not that I am ANY BETTER than anyone else, in fact, probably less so... I stray from my stories often. I shouldn't, but since my Stroke in 2012, I have somehow developed some sort of ADD, so please bear with me, the end will justify the means and I will *try* to stick with my story; for you, my readers. I moved my family of the ex-wife and four children Cross-Country in 2002 to be closer to my dad who was turning 75 that year, and while I could not afford both financially as well as mentally to move back to Southern California (where he and my mother lived), I chose the Midbar (Hebrew for Desert) of Arizona. Within just a few short weeks of moving here, I woke up one day with some of the most severe abdominal pain I had ever experienced. I found a local doctor and made an appointment to see him that day. I arrived at the appointment and was ushered into an examination room by their PA (Physician's Assistant), who is supposed to be the same as a Doctor, but not really (?). I was examined and Prescriptions for a Pain Medication and an Antibiotic. They continued to treat me in a like manner for almost six months when I ended up in an Emergency Room, where a CT Scan was performed and Colonoscopy was scheduled. I was then diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized obstruction and abscess in my colon that would require surgical intervention. Surgery was scheduled for two days later, on a Friday in Mid-March 2003. I arrived at the hospital at the designated time, 5:45 am; was admitted to the hospital; told them about ALL my allergies (including a BIG ONE, an allergy to a particular anesthetic agent), and taken to a room where I was put into one of those awful gowns and told that they'd be "right back" to take me to surgery. They promptly came back at 10:30 in the morning and took me to yet another room... to wait some more. At 11:45 the Anesthesiologist came in to talk with me. He informed me that he was going to use Propofol for my induction and that he was planning on using the EXACT ANESTHESIA TO WHICH I AM ALLERGIC to maintain me through surgery! "NOT ON ME, YOU'RE NOT", I exclaimed! "I'M ALLERGIC!!!" On my wrist sat a red band that clearly said ALLERGIES: CEVOFLURAINE. I then proceeded to give him a list of anesthetic agents that I knew to be safe. He tapped me on the knee and said: Okay, Smart guy, put yourself to sleep and quickly left the room. I awoke from the anesthesia on the following Wednesday evening. In addition to the NINE small incisions from various attempts to perform the procedure of removing 18" of my diseased colon through a scope, I also had one 6" cut in my belly that began around my navel and continued to just above my groin. I also began experiencing severe shortness of breath. The staples were ripped out of my skin by the Butcher Surgeon two weeks later, but my breathing difficulties continued. After being examined by one doctor after another, I finally decided to be examined by The Mayo Clinic. Over a ten-day to 2 week period, I was examined by multiple physicians, underwent numerous tests and procedures and was finally ready for my Report Appointment. I would learn the results of all of the tests and procedures and hopefully have a clear diagnosis and prognosis. The verdict had come in. Diagnosis: Terminal COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Causation: Bacterial Pneumonia due to Malignant Hyperthermia caused by induction of Detrimental Anesthesia Prognosis: 5% chance of Five-Year Survival I then took my report to a highly regarded Pulmonologist for Follow-Up Care, but not before enrolling in Rabbinical School in New York City. I had, (since age ten) always wanted to be a Rabbi. It was now or never. On the advice of the Pulmonologist, I began taking Prednisone (a Steroid) that would open up my Bronchioles and make it easier to breathe. The normal dosage for a man who is 5'9" and weighs 150 pounds (before I got sick, I weighed 174 pounds, all muscle, by the way) is <100mg per day. My STARTING dose was 100mg THREE TIMES a DAY. the dosage was increased every few months for the following THREE YEARS, when, on Sunday, September 9, 2007, at the weight of 340 Pounds (the Steroids had been increased to 250mg Four Times a day), I collapsed and at Mayo Hospital, was intubated where my organs began failing. Two nights later, on the First Night of Rosh haShana, the Jewish New Year, and while being mechanically ventilated, I went into Full Blown Total System Failure, and suffered a Cardiac Arrest for 14 minutes, followed by a Coma of several weeks duration. During my Coma, I felt as if I was in a box. The box had four dirt walls and smelled like the Morning Dew. In the upper right corner of the box sat a red square with a white X inside of it. "If only I could click on that X, I might stop this program", I thought to myself, but I could not move; I could not stand; could not reach, and could not scream for help. I lay in this place crying out in fear for what seemed like days and weeks and months. Suddenly, my cries were replaced by Psalms. I was reciting Psalms, some of which I had never even read before! And the Psalms turned into Prayers; The Kol Nidre, chanted at the beginning of our Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur; every other prayer recited on this Holy of all Holy Days; the Prayers for the Sukkot Holidays that follow the next week and the Readings for every single Torah Portion of the year. I somehow knew them all. By heart. Without hesitation of memory and obviously without any text to look at. I kept reading and chanting day and night; night and day and resting in between. Really resting. Sleeping... until one day, I opened up my eyes to see my beautiful son Zac sitting at my side on my bed. Covering the holes in my throat and on the side of my neck, I managed to spit out "C'était le rêve de dix minutes le plus étrange que j'aie jamais eu"! I told my son that was the weirdest ten-minute dream that I have ever had in FRENCH, my first language and native tongue. He then told me that it had been over two months, and I was in a Hospice Facility. The night before, I had begun to breathe on my own a minute or so after being disconnected from the machines that had sustained my organs since September. A few days later I was wheeled to an ambulance outside to be transported to the truly amazing HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital in Scottsdale. The sun kissed my face as I felt like I was pulled up into a body of love. It spoke. In Hebrew: Don't worry, it said. "You and I are going to be okay". I spent the next six weeks learning to do things like eating and holding a pencil; how to shower and dress. I learned how to return to life. Six weeks after leaving HealthSouth, my dad died. In July 2018, my mom joined him. I have had many trials and tribulations over these last twelve years. A Stroke in 2012 took my ability to project my voice loudly; I've been hospitalized many times and know how very precious time is. I do not live for today, rather, I live for tomorrow. I do everything I can do today to help others, and pray that I am again awakened tomorrow to do more good. And if so, great! And if not; if G-d decides to take me tonight, I will hang out with my parents and loved ones forever. I win either way. President Roosevelt was right to believe in only fearing fear. Psalm 23 is even more so, as Faith follows all of us.

Funny my mom passed in 1991 as a 13 year old it was hard but she was much more then beauty. She was a fighter from the beginning and I will never be able to explain her impact. It shows you came from a strong famiy and I'm glad you had both a mom and dad because a lot of people don't. I pray your truth can make a difference

This is trying to scare us with more misinformation then actual information but thank you for giving us your reality. I like it a lot.and people just wash your hand like you should be doing anyway 😂

Great discussion, as well as some interesting numbers which I'm not sure are meant to calm us, or install even more fear. I have many of your same concerns. Just yesterday I scheduled a work trip to Miami for late next week, but am unsure if it will happen or not. And while i say or act like i'm not concerned, sub-consciously, i am quite sure it is weighing on my mind each time i cough, or sneeze, or feel "a little warm", or if someone around me does. One of the biggest fears i have is that with all of the media coverage and the additional testing becoming available, the numbers are sure to skyrocket, and this is going to really set some people off. Our country is going to go absolutely bonkers . We are all guilty of taking limited amounts of information and either talking about it like an expert, or completely overreacting. Here's hoping that the number stat to level out, and then drop. Lets hope that the American people can follow simple suggestions. Lets hope that countries from around the world can work together to come up with a viable plan to slow this train down. And last but not least, lets hope our politicians can come together to provide our country guidance as we all try to get through this. Lets hope they can forget about the presidential race for just a minute to remember what their job really is; to serve the American people. And now is their time to really step up and lead by example.

Lauren, like you I have to balance my fear and confusion. I work directly with the public and I have an immune system that is partially suppressed as a by product of treatment for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I fear for my Father the most as his body is much weaker than even mine. I visited the Cleveland Museum of Art on Sunday just to learn three people were positively diagnosed on Monday in Cuyahoga county. You aren't alone in that fear. I think that we must turn to hope to keep us in this trying time. We have to...

Terry, As a man who has lived and breathed baseball, your letter was an absolute joy for me to read. What young boy wouldn't want to be in the clubhouse with his Dad? During your time as manager I've been to quite a few games in Cleveland. None though were as special as July 12th 2014. That was the day I celebrated my 30th birthday. Though the day centered around my birthday it saw me doing something for someone else. It was the day I took my Father to the very first professional sports game in his 59 years of life at the time. It was so touching the certificate that he got from the wonderful folks at Guest Services. And although the home team lost to the White Sox that day, it will always remain one of the best days in my heart. Letters like yours only serve to renew my love for the game of baseball. Thanks for sharing it with the little boy still inside of me wanting to throw that 0-2 curveball to the best hitter in the league.

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Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.

Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine

You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.

I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)

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Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?

So nice Roger <3

Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain

Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.