Who had a higher chances of survival, men or women ? Is there a good source for statistical observations of the survivals?
Probably not - and whatever you can find or generate yourself will probably suffer from Selection Bias.
Reliable statistics require comprehensive data collection.
You can probably find some data in DP camps archives - if they are publicly available. However, not every survivor went through a DP camp, and some went through several.
Another source is various survivor databases (see below). Alas, they contain data submitted by individual survivors or their relatives, so they are extremely incomplete both row-wise (missing individuals) and column-wise (missing data for people present in the DB). Also, the web interfaces allow searching for individuals but not downloading, so you will need to talk to the curators about access.
Can you inherit a memory of trauma?
Researchers have already shown that certain fears might be inherited through generations, at least in animals.
Scientists at Emory University in Atlanta trained male mice to fear the smell of cherry blossom by pairing the smell with a small electric shock. Eventually the mice shuddered at the smell even when it was delivered on its own.
Despite never having encountered the smell of cherry blossom, the offspring of these mice had the same fearful response to the smell - shuddering when they came in contact with it. So too did some of their own offspring.
On the other hand, offspring of mice that had been conditioned to fear another smell, or mice who’d had no such conditioning had no fear of cherry blossom.
The fearful mice produced sperm which had fewer epigenetic tags on the gene responsible for producing receptors that sense cherry blossom. The pups themselves had an increased number of cherry blossom smell receptors in their brain, although how this led to them associating the smell with fear is still a mystery.
The subheading was amended on 25 August 2015 to clarify that the new finding is not the first example in humans of the theory of epigenetic inheritance. The researchers described it as “the first demonstration of transmission of pre-conception stress effects resulting in epigenetic changes”.
Holocaust Survivors: The Search for Faith
BOB ABERNETHY: One of the consequences of the Holocaust was its effect on the faith of observant Jews. How could a just God have permitted such a tragedy? Today, the personal story in his words, of Menachem Daum, a New York television producer, whose parents were both Holocaust survivors. Daum has explored these issues of faith with survivors including his aged father.
Mr. MENACHEM DAUM: A Hasidic master once said, “A God who limits himself to actions that we humans can understand couldn’t possibly be God.” Essentially, that was my father’s approach to the crisis of faith raised by the Holocaust.
However, that was not the approach taken by my mother. On my mother’s tombstone, we inscribed that she endured much suffering. This was our way of asking God to forgive her sins. In effect, we were saying she already suffered enough for them in this world.
However, I don’t think my mother felt the strong need for God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, she told me when she’s called before God in final judgment, she will turn the tables. She will demand to know why he stood by silently during the Holocaust as her large family was being destroyed.
Her mother, two brothers and six sisters, her first husband, she had a son before the war, his name was Avrohom. So at least we have some recollection of who they were.
Just a few months after the liberation, my parents, Moshe Yosef Daum and Fela Nussbaum, were married in a displaced persons camp in occupied Germany. They named me Menachem which means consoler or comforter. Apparently, they hoped I might be able to restore some happiness in their lives.
Actually, the happiest time in my mother’s life, she once told me, had been the year she spent as a student in Beis Yaakov, the network of Orthodox schools for girls in prewar Poland.
My mother told me she retained the pure faith of a Beis Yaakov girl until she got off the train at Auschwitz, but she never spoke about what actually happened on the train ramp that forever shook her faith. My mother had arrived at Auschwitz with her sister, Bluma. Many years later, my aunt Bluma revealed to me that my mother had her infant son in her arms. As they were roused out of the train, a veteran Jewish prisoner hurriedly came up to them. He knew mothers who were together with their young children would soon be directed to the gas chambers. He urged them to do the unthinkable.
Ms. BLUMA POSNER: (Foreign language spoken) “Give up the child. Hurry. We can’t stay here too long. We know what we are doing. Give away the child. You are still young trees. You can have more fruit. Because of the child you too will go. Give away the child.” A prisoner came from behind us and grabbed the child from Fela’s arms. She felt the child being taken from her. She said “Oy, vey. The child hasn’t eaten anything. Bluma, maybe we can still send him some food?” I tried to calm her down. I told her, “You’ll see, today they’re taking everyone separately, children, young people.” I made excuses but I knew what was happening.
Mr. MENACHEM DAUM: At the Passover seder, my mother would get annoyed as my father recited the Exodus story. She would ask him, if God did so many miracles during biblical times, then why hadn’t she seen any such miracles during the Holocaust?
My father’s only response was that we humans, with our limited minds, cannot expect to understand God’s ways. We must live with faith despite our unanswered questions. The tenacity of my father’s faith has always been a mystery to me. It’s a lot easier for me to understand the religious defiance of my father’s only surviving relative, his cousin Dora.
Ms. DORA LEFKOWITZ: I cannot see a God who will allow a little baby to be killed for no reason at all. And I really lost my belief then, right there and then. I had one sister and two brothers. I was the oldest and the only survivor of my family. Why? What did they do so terrible that they had to perish? I think if God is so great and so powerful, he could have struck Hitler down before he killed so many Jews. That’s my feeling.
Professor ARTHUR HERTZBERG (New York University): That is one of the deep religious responses to the Shoah, to defy God. To take it with indifference is not a religious response. To go and rebuild is a religious response, to defy God is a religious response because that is to take what happened at the utmost seriousness, as a matter of life and death, of your own life and death.
Mr. MENACHEM DAUM: In the early 1950s, just as my father was on the verge of realizing the American dream, he gave up a good job in upstate New York and moved his family to Brooklyn. He did so in order to send us to yeshivas and give us a religious education. Most of my yeshiva classmates were, like myself, children of survivors. Our teachers, survivors themselves, never mentioned the Holocaust. I suspect that, like my parents, they too had no answers to offer us.
(to Father) Dad, we’ll pray, yes? We’ll put on the prayer shawl and tefillin. Yes? We are going to put the tefillin on your hand.
According to Jewish religious law, my father’s physical condition exempts him from the need to put on the tefillin. However, I know how much this ritual means to him. During the Holocaust, he was also exempt from putting on the tefillin. And yet in the ghettos and forced labor camps, he risked his life in order to do so.
“Blessed art Thou, O Lord, Our God, Master of the Universe, who has sanctified us through His commandments and commanded us to put on the tefillin.”
(to Father): You put on tefillin the Skarzisk camp?
(to Father): It wasn’t easy, was it?
Mr. MOSHE YOSEF DAUM: No.
Mr. MENACHEM DAUM: I try to continue my parents’ ways, but to be honest, I do it more out of respect than out of conviction. I really don’t understand my father’s faith. I don’t understand why he would risk his life in the camps for a God who had seemingly abandoned him. Nor do I understand my mother’s strange combination of faith and doubt. How she continued to observe the commandments of a God she could not forgive.
Prof. HERTZBERG: But there is an answer. To me, the miracle of Jewish history as a whole, is our capacity to begin after tragedy, after disaster.
ABERNETHY: Menachem Daum also passed along this story. A Hasidic rabbi lost his wife and 11 children in the Holocaust. Afterwards, he was asked, “Why did miracles occur only during biblical times? Why don’t they happen in our time?” The rabbi replied, “The fact that there are Holocaust survivors who, after all they endured, can still keep faith, is itself, the greatest miracle of all.”
‘Carry our stories forward’: Holocaust survivors share powerful testimonies at UN
When the Nazis invaded Poland, overnight, nine-year-old Theodor Meron became “a refugee, out of school, out of childhood and constantly in clear and present danger”, the man who would later become a Judge for International Criminal Tribunals told the United Nations Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony on Monday.
While Judge Meron noted that the events of the Holocaust may seem far away for many, separated by “decades of progress”, he stressed that “for those of us who lived through them, as I did as a boy in occupied Poland, they are all too real”.
“What followed was the ghettos, work camps and most of my family falling victim to the Holocaust,” he said.
The keynote speaker at the UN’s ceremony in New York, pointed out that while one-third of the Jewish people were murdered in the Holocaust, “it is often forgotten how millions of Russians and Poles also fell victim to the Nazi killing machine”.
Today, he said, we remember those whom we lost so many years ago, but we also “honour those who took invaluable steps to prevent even greater losses.”
Even while describing “those apocalyptic times”, Judge Meron spoke eloquently of the many who risked their lives to protect Jews, and he paid tribute to “those who were saved, and those who took courageous action to save their neighbours from certain death”.
“That we pause to reflect upon the Holocaust and remember those lost is vitally important,” he said. “That we learn from all that has taken place is imperative, and it is all the more vital that we take every opportunity…to learn from the general that survived, from those who lived through the chaos and calamities of those years”.
Too many were lost, “and soon we too will be gone”, he continued, “leaving those of you gathered here to carry our stories forward in the future, [especially] that most essential lesson: Never again”.
Hitler did not win
“I stand today in front of you to tell you, Hitler did not win”, Holocaust survivor Irene Shashar told those assembled. “I remember.”
Ms. Shashar was born in Poland in 1937 and was not quite two-years old when the Nazis invaded. By the time she turned two, she would be starving in the Warsaw Ghetto.
As she and her family were forcibly moved into the ghetto, Ms. Shashar noted that “the seeds of genocide had been planted” and “survival was the only thing that mattered”.
While she’d hoped “someone would say it was all a big mistake”, of course, that was not the case. “The move to the ghetto was only the beginning of our suffering.”
Ms. Shashar recalled one afternoon as she and her mother were out searching for food in the streets, they’d heard “bloodcurdling screams”.
“Mother yanked my little arm and took off in the direction of our cramped living quarters we knew of as ‘home’”, she said.
They’d dashed up the stairway, to their open door where, “lying in the kitchen was my father… limp, bleeding from a gash on the side of his throat”.
“My mother threw herself on top of him. She let out a wail that could have be heard on the other side of the planet”, she continued, “that was the last time I ever saw my father”.
One day as they hunted for scraps of food, she was “tossed down a sewer”.
“It was wet, dirty. we were crossing the sewer for the whole ghetto area,” she recalled. “All these years later, I can still smell the stench of that seemingly endless passage [as] rats skittered past me”.
This was how they escaped to the so-called Aryan side of Warsaw.
A hidden child
For the remainder of the war, Ms. Shashar remained hidden.
Her mother would say, “If you don’t cry and are a good girl, this will be over soon”, she remembered.
75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, @antonioguterres calls for greater solidarity in the face of rising anti-Semitism, as Holocaust survivors & family members gather at UNHQ on Monday's #HolocaustRemembrance Day. https://t.co/5vM7ln4QTY pic.twitter.com/WWjEKo94Wm
&mdash United Nations (@UN) January 27, 2020
Both survived the Holocaust, but her mother died in 1948, leaving her a 10-year-old orphan in the care of a family in Peru. There she was able to start a new life.
Ms. Shashar credited her mother’s “overwhelming sacrifice, a priceless, selfless act of courage”, that gave her the chance to survive and to thrive in adulthood.
“Thanks to her, I was blessed with the opportunity to have children and grandchildren,” she said. “Because I sowed my family tree, Hitler did not win. I did the very thing he tried so hard to prevent”.
“I was victorious over Hitler”, Ms. Shashar concluded with a plea that the UN, which rose from the ashes of WWII, raise its voice, “because silence is indifference”.
Living in ‘constant fear’
Shraga Milstein was only six years old when the war broke out.
“The switch from a free and comfortable life to being closed up in a room at the age of six with the constant fear of what the next hour will bring” was Mr. Milstein earliest memory of the Holocaust.
He recalled that in the ghetto his parents tried to prevent him from seeing blood or dead bodies in the street, “which were a common sight”.
Mr. Milstein told how one day everyone was assembled in an open square to walk past a ranking SS Officer, who divided them into two groups.
One group was told to walk under guard to the railway station and the other to return home.
“I still do not understand why and how my father, mother, brother and I were not separated and ordered to return home”, he stated, adding that other family members “were not so lucky”.
Those that remained in the ghetto were sent to labour camps. At age 11, he worked eight to ten hours a day as an apprentice wood cutter.
And in 1944, was shipped by cattle car with his father and brother to Buchenwald while his mother was sent to Ravensbrück, “it was the last time I saw her”, Mr. Milstein lamented.
Upon their arrival, Mr. Milstein’s father hugged them to say goodbye and reminded the boys that they had family in Palestine. His father was killed the next day at the age of 43.
Several weeks later, Mr. Milstein was transferred with others to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where “there were no executions, but people died there from severe hunger” and cold, he explained.
From 1943 until liberation, some 140,000 men, women and children were imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen where about 50,000 died after “prolonged suffering,” he said.
‘Site of hell’
He painted a disturbing picture of the state of the camp when the soldiers arrived to liberate the prisoners, calling it a “site of hell [with] piles of corpses” scattered everywhere and in the barracks, “living people were lying next to dead corpses” without hygiene or water.
The camp was liberated by British soldiers on 15 April 1945 and took them from the squalor of the concentration camp” to proper housing with a clean bed in a military facility.
That day “my world changed from complete neglect and apathy to human compassion and a true effort to help the scared, hungry and sick”, he said.
“The Bergen-Belsen camp was burned and in it, are today mass graves,” a memorial site and museum that keeps “the memory of the atrocities alive” and presents visitors “a world of human understanding, tolerance, freedom and democracy based on the equality of every human being”.
“It is our duty to condemn and prevent any intolerance against people based on ethnic origin or religion”, he concluded.
Jan Karski Book: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust
This site contains information about Jan Karski, the Polish underground agent who brought some of the first news of Hitler’s extermination policy to the the West in 1942. Karski’s efforts are recounted in Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust, by E. Thomas Wood and Stanislaw M. Jankowski (John Wiley & Sons, Inc., [&hellip]
Nazi anti-Semitism and the origins of the Holocaust
Even before the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they had made no secret of their anti-Semitism. As early as 1919 Adolf Hitler had written, “Rational anti-Semitism, however, must lead to systematic legal opposition.…Its final objective must unswervingly be the removal of the Jews altogether.” In Mein Kampf (“My Struggle” 1925–27), Hitler further developed the idea of the Jews as an evil race struggling for world domination. Nazi anti-Semitism was rooted in religious anti-Semitism and enhanced by political anti-Semitism. To this the Nazis added a further dimension: racial anti-Semitism. Nazi racial ideology characterized the Jews as Untermenschen (German: “subhumans”). The Nazis portrayed the Jews as a race and not as a religious group. Religious anti-Semitism could be resolved by conversion, political anti-Semitism by expulsion. Ultimately, the logic of Nazi racial anti-Semitism led to annihilation.
Hitler’s worldview revolved around two concepts: territorial expansion (that is, greater Lebensraum—“living space”—for the German people) and racial supremacy. After World War I the Allies denied Germany colonies in Africa, so Hitler sought to expand German territory and secure food and resources—scarce during World War I—in Europe itself. Hitler viewed the Jews as racial polluters, a cancer on German society in what has been termed by Holocaust survivor and historian Saul Friedländer “redemptive anti-Semitism,” focused on redeeming Germany from its ills and ridding it of a cancer on the body politic. Historian Timothy Snyder characterized the struggle as even more elemental, as “zoological,” and “ecological,” a struggle of the species. Hitler opposed Jews for the values they brought into the world. Social justice and compassionate assistance to the weak stood in the way of what he perceived as the natural order, in which the powerful exercise unrestrained power. In Hitler’s view, such restraint on the exercise of power would inevitably lead to the weakening, even the defeat, of the master race.
When Hitler came to power legally on January 30, 1933, as the head of a coalition government, his first objective was to consolidate power and to eliminate political opposition. The assault against the Jews began on April 1 with a boycott of Jewish businesses. A week later the Nazis dismissed Jews from the civil service, and by the end of the month the participation of Jews in German schools was restricted by a quota. On May 10 thousands of Nazi students, together with many professors, stormed university libraries and bookstores in 30 cities throughout Germany to remove tens of thousands of books written by non-Aryans and those opposed to Nazi ideology. The books were tossed into bonfires in an effort to cleanse German culture of “un-Germanic” writings. A century earlier Heinrich Heine—a German poet of Jewish origin—had said, “Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people.” In Nazi Germany the time between the burning of Jewish books and the burning of Jews was eight years.
As discrimination against Jews increased, German law required a legal definition of a Jew and an Aryan. Promulgated at the annual Nazi Party rally in Nürnberg on September 15, 1935, the Nürnberg Laws—the Law for the Protection of German Blood and German Honour and the Law of the Reich Citizen—became the centrepiece of anti-Jewish legislation and a precedent for defining and categorizing Jews in all German-controlled lands. Marriage and sexual relations between Jews and citizens of “German or kindred blood” were prohibited. Only “racial” Germans were entitled to civil and political rights. Jews were reduced to subjects of the state. The Nürnberg Laws formally divided Germans and Jews, yet neither the word German nor the word Jew was defined. That task was left to the bureaucracy. Two basic categories were established in November: Jews, those with at least three Jewish grandparents and Mischlinge (“mongrels,” or “mixed breeds”), people with one or two Jewish grandparents. Thus, the definition of a Jew was primarily based not on the identity an individual affirmed or the religion he or she practiced but on his or her ancestry. Categorization was the first stage of destruction.
Responding with alarm to Hitler’s rise, the Jewish community sought to defend their rights as Germans. For those Jews who felt themselves fully German and who had patriotically fought in World War I, the Nazification of German society was especially painful. Zionist activity intensified. “Wear it with pride,” journalist Robert Weltsch wrote in 1933 of the Jewish identity the Nazis had so stigmatized. Religious philosopher Martin Buber led an effort at Jewish adult education, preparing the community for the long journey ahead. Rabbi Leo Baeck circulated a prayer for Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in 1935 that instructed Jews on how to behave: “We bow down before God we stand erect before man.” Yet while few, if any, could foresee its eventual outcome, the Jewish condition was increasingly perilous and was expected to worsen.
By the late 1930s there was a desperate search for countries of refuge. Those who could obtain visas and qualify under stringent quotas emigrated to the United States. Many went to Palestine, where the small Jewish community was willing to receive refugees. Still others sought refuge in neighbouring European countries. Most countries, however, were unwilling to receive large numbers of refugees.
Germany to give $662 million to Holocaust survivors struggling during the coronavirus pandemic
Germany plans to pay more than half a billion dollars to Holocaust survivors who are struggling to get by during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), the organization that negotiates compensation with the German government, said Wednesday that $662 million in COVID-19 relief aid will be divided among about 240,000 of the poorest Holocaust survivors. The survivors are located primarily in Israel, North America, the former Soviet Union and Western Europe.
"These increased benefits achieved by the hard work of our negotiation's delegation during these unprecedented times, will help our efforts to ensure dignity and stability in survivors' final years," said Gideon Taylor, President of the Claims Conference. "We must meet the challenges of the increasing needs of survivors as they age, coupled with the new and urgent necessities caused by the global pandemic. It will always remain our moral imperative to keep fighting for every survivor."
Eligible survivors will receive two supplemental payments of $1,400 each over the next two years. This is in addition to $4.3 million in emergency funds distributed by the Claims Conference in the spring.
According to the Claims Conference, a large portion of Holocaust survivors, especially those in the former Soviet Union, are living in poverty, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Survivors, who are all elderly, face increased health, emotional and financial barriers due to the pandemic, which disproportionally affects older populations.
"In the face of a devastating global pandemic, it was vital to secure larger increases for survivors while also seeking immediate funds to help them through these extremely challenging times," said Ambassador Stuart E. Eizenstat, Claims Conference Special Negotiator.
Negotiators emphasized the need for extra funds to cover the cost of groceries, medicine, personal protective equipment, transportation to doctors and other pandemic-related expenses.
The organization said that the most recent negotiations with Germany also resulted in a $36 million increase in funding for social welfare services for survivors compared to last year, for a total of $651 million. Additionally, it classified certain regions in Bulgaria and Romania as "open ghettos," which allows survivors living there to receive compensation payments from the Claims Conference.
The organization said the funding is used for in-home care for more than 83,000 survivors and other vital services for more than 70,000 others.
According to the Claims Conference, negotiations since 1952 have led to the German government paying more than $70 billion in Holocaust reparations to over 800,000 survivors.
First published on October 15, 2020 / 11:58 AM
© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Sophie Lewis is a social media producer and trending writer for CBS News, focusing on space and climate change.
Eva Umlauf, born in December 1942 at a labour camp in Nowaky, Czechoslovakia, in what is now Slovakia. She now lives in Munich, Germany, and works as a psychotherapist. She is returning to Auschwitz for the third time. Her book on the Holocaust is due to be published in 2016
Eva Umlauf in her Munich apartment Frank Bauer Photograph: Frank Bauer
I was not even two when we arrived at Auschwitz in 1944. I have no conscious memories of that time, but plenty of subconscious ones. My mother told me later how when they tattooed my arm with a needle, it was so painful that I passed out. The number they gave me and that I still have was A26959. My mother’s ended in 8. I was probably the youngest child to have been tattooed who survived.
My mother was four months pregnant when we arrived. My sister Nora was born there in April 1945.
Had we arrived just two days earlier, we would have been gassed immediately. Our transport was the first from which no one was taken to the gas chambers, probably because they knew by then that the Russians were very close. We arrived on 2 November and on 30 October, 18,000 mothers and children who had arrived from Theresienstadt were killed.
On the two occasions I have returned to Auschwitz, in 1995 and 2011, although I haven’t got memories as such of the time I spent there, something is triggered deep inside me, both physically and in my inner being. I get very nervous and the death, the cold, the expanse and the emptiness of it swamps me – it’s a feeling that it’s hard to explain but it’s everywhere. I can feel the burnt earth everywhere I walk.
When Auschwitz was liberated in January 1945, we were already extremely sick, so we had to stay there. A Jewish paediatrician from Prague said my mother and her baby would not survive. She had rickets, TB and jaundice. But in April, against the odds, my mother gave birth to my sister, helped by prisoners who were doctors.
Eva Umlauf with her mother. Photograph: Frank Bauer
My mother never talked very much about our time there, mainly to protect us and herself. She was 21 when we were finally able to leave, with a two-year-old and a six-week-old. She also took with us a four-year-old boy who was parentless and she spent months searching for his relatives, who she did finally track down. At the same time, she had lost her husband and was mourning him. There was an unspoken ban on speaking about any of it. We went back to live in Trenčín, the small town in Slovakia where my mother had moved when she married my father, and where the Red Cross found us a room.
There was a frantic search to see who had survived and to look for relatives. But none of our relatives were still alive. My grandmother, great-grandmother and great-grandfather, my mother’s three siblings – all had died.
Probably my earliest memories of anything at all are of walking through the streets of Trenčín and people stopping in their tracks and saying with amazement: “You’re back!” “What a miracle that you’re alive!” I understood as a three-and-a-half to four-year-old that I was a miracle because I got to hear it so many times, but I didn’t really understand what the word meant. Only much later could I recognise what a miracle it really was that I had survived, when I learned that of the thousands of Slovak men and women who were deported to Auschwitz, only a few hundred returned.
My mother put every effort into giving us a normal life. She sent us to school and made sure we studied. She was loving and resourceful. It was only later when she got old that she was gripped by depression. Having held everything together and been so capable and diligent for so long, she just fell apart as if under the burden of it all, and she died at the age of 72. It’s no accident that I and my sister became doctors – we had an absolute primal need to help people and save lives.
I later qualified as a psychotherapist, a job which I enjoy immensely, but which confronts me with the suffering caused by the Holocaust on a daily basis. My patients are from “both sides” – either victims or perpetrators, or their relatives – and many are what you’d call transgenerationally affected – carrying around with them the issues and traumas that their parents or grandparents never dealt with, and which unless cured are like a contagious disease that they’ll pass on to the next generation.
I married a Polish Jew and we settled in Germany, the “Täterland” – the land of the perpetrator – after being forced out of Czechoslovakia after the collapse of the Prague Spring in 1968. It does sometimes feel like a strange decision to live in Germany because the Holocaust is just so omnipresent here and there is a growing antisemitism that scares me, especially when you feel it in Germany, of all places, which is why I always repeat what Primo Levi wrote: “What happened can happen again.”
Eva Umlauf’s numerical tattoo, still visible today. Photograph: Frank Bauer
That’s why I go into schools and talk to 15 year olds in and around Munich because we have to repeatedly confront it. That’s why I’m returning to Auschwitz on Monday. It will be the last time many people return, the end of an epoch. The wounds might heal, but they leave scars which are still very visible.
Ruth Posner (b. 1933)
Another Polish Holocaust survivor who posed as a Catholic youth, Ruth Posner and her parents lived in the Warsaw Ghetto. When she was nine years old, Posner and her aunt were allowed to work at a leather factory outside the ghetto walls, where they fled and escaped. Although Posner never knew the exact circumstances of her parents, they were most likely killed in Treblinka, an extermination camp.
Barely a teen, Posner was moved to Germany as a prisoner of war and was subsequently tortured, albeit as a "Catholic girl." After the war, she moved to England, married Michael S. Posner, and launched a career in dance and choreography in London.
Moving to New York City with her husband in the 1970s, Posner taught physical theatre at prestigious schools like Juilliard and studied acting with Uta Hagan. She returned to London and taught at institutions like the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Starting in the 1990s, she pursued acting and would become best known for the films To Anyone Who Can Hear Me (1999), Do I Love You? (2002), and Timeless (2005).