Interview with Ruth Dräger, née Geistlich, conducted by Linde Apel, on September 13, 2007 [in excerpts].

English Translation
    Portrait of Ruth Dräger, 2001. FZH/WdE 89.

    D: Yes, and then afterwards the five, I think, five, uh, these, uh, soldier wagons came afterwards and they had us [], in September that was when I came back again, September that was. Came back again on wagons. There was my grandma, my two aunts, and me. We were in a wagon, in a, uh, uh, raiding party carrier, and my aunt and my mother, they had already been home the day before. And then there was Marie-Luisen-Straße, there was such a big, there is such a school, we arrived there on Sunday morning.
    A: Mhm
    D: Yes. And then we were distributed, and then my grandfather came and took us home. My grandfather had to divorce my grandmother, otherwise she would have gone to Auschwitz, and, yes. However, all of us, uh, all six of us first slept under the table, during the night from Sunday to Monday. And on Monday it continued in such a way that we then found somewhere, uh, and that, that is, that we found accommodation somewhere, because we had no apartment. That lasted, I think, nearly a month there, then we got the house from the Jewish Congregation on Kielortallee.
    A: Mh. Mh.
    D: There had been SS men there. And there they [threw] the furniture, there were several additional Jews who also came to Kielort-, um, Kielortallee. And, uh, they threw the furniture out of the, uh, rooms from upstairs. Hehe. Into, what’s it called, onto the, onto the ground. But outside it was, ne, already. We had such a U-shaped house, and they simply threw out the furniture of the SS people. And then the Jews moved in. But several of them, ne.
    A: Mhm.
    D: That was afterwards a real, such a, half-, where the half-Jews are.
    A: Mhm.
    D: Yes. And down there was still the synagogue, second floor and downstairs ground floor. That used to be a, a Jewish retirement home.
    A: Mhm.
    D: Well, an old folks’ residential home, let’s say, ne. They had their apartments, but it was for older people, ne. Before, before the war.
    A: Mhm.
    D: Yes, and then, I don’t know....
    A: You lived there for quite a long time, ne, in the, in Kielortallee.
    D: Yes, I lived there from ’45 to ’78.
    A: Mh.
    D: I lived there until 1978. In ’78 I moved in here. The Jewish Congregation sold the houses. [] Abridged from the manuscript: tape change
    A: When you were back in Hamburg did you consider, uh, leaving Germany?
    D: Nope. Not at all. I was only 17 then.
    A: Mhm.
    D: In my eighteenth year, uh, age. Not at all. We were glad to be back.
    A: Mhm.
    D: Well, we all always lived together. Also my mother and my aunts, they have all, we have all always worked together-uh, lived together in one apartment.
    A: Mhm.
    D: All of us. Until we eventually separated afterwards, right, my mother then lived with my aunt then in Alsterchaussee and with my sisters, and I stayed then with my grandparents. [] Abridged from the manuscript: About childhood in Hamburg, persecution as a Jew, life in Theresienstadt
    D: Yes. But we were glad to be back home.
    A: Yes. Mh, I believe so.
    D: The first night we all slept under the bed, under the table. We were then, my grandfather, yes, we were there six heads of us, oh. He only had one room.
    A: Mhm.
    D: Afterwards, by police force, he, they also, uh, the people with whom he lived as a subtenant, they had to give up another room.
    A: Mhm.
    D: They didn’t want that.
    A: Mhm.
    D: But they had to.
    A: Ja.
    D: Right, and they had a cat, so the toilet door had to stay open all the time. I’m just noticing that now. I always have my toilet door open, too. But she literally went to the toilet.
    A: To an actual toilet, a real one?
    D: She really went to the actual toilet.
    A: Great!
    D: Yes. So that, that also surprised me, ne.
    A: Mhm.
    D: But afterward they had to, ...
    A: Mhm.
    D: … they had to give up their best, um, room and then we had two rooms.
    A: That was probably quite different to be back in Hamburg and suddenly be able to walk around without a star and to go where...
    D: Yes. Yes. Yes.
    A: …you wanted to.
    D: Yes. That was first, at first quite strange. Free, I recognized everything. I thought, you are going to come back again. That was somehow, uh, I don’t know myself what I thought. Afterwards, when I went with Mrs. Guth to Karolinenstraße to my home, to Laufgraben, we went to all of these places. I went everywhere with Mrs. Guth. I thought, I can’t believe you’re coming back here. In Theresienstadt, I sometimes thought, it’s always on my mind at night: How will you ever get out of here? Yes, do we have to stay here forever? That’s the way it is, those were my thoughts throughout. After all, you do think about things, don’t you?
    A: Yes, of course.
    D: That’s quite normal.
    A: That is normal.
    D: And then how we came back home with five, uh, automobiles.

    Source Description

    Ruth Dräger, née Geistlich, was born in Hamburg in 1928 and she initially grew up in the Jewish Paulinenstift girls's orphanage on Laufgraben. After the Talmud Tora School was closed in 1941, she had to do forced labor in a gunpowder factory at the age of 13. In 1943, she was deported to Theresienstadt along with her mother, her sister and an aunt. All four survived and returned to Hamburg in August 1945, where they lived from then on. In the 2007 interview with the Workshop of Memory Werkstatt der Erinnerung, she talks about her impressions and experiences upon her return to Hamburg. Further interviews from the Workshop of Memory Werkstatt der Erinnerung can be found here.

    Recommended Citation

    Interview with Ruth Dräger, née Geistlich, conducted by Linde Apel, on September 13, 2007 [in excerpts]. (translated by Erwin Fink), edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <> [April 17, 2024].