Inspiring Words from Inspiring People: Ruth Westheimer

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is a German-born Jewish immigrant to the United States who became an author, radio, and TV host specializing in relationship and sex advice.

Inspiring Words from Inspiring People: Ruth Westheimer

Dear Ruth,

You’re ten years old. You’re on a train. You’ve just watched your mother and grandmother run alongside that train desperately waving good-bye as it pulled out of the station at Frankfurt am Main. Your father has already been taken by the Nazis. You’re bewildered, lonely, and sad, but you have no idea how much sadder you’ll be when it becomes evident that you will never see any of your family members again . . . that you are an orphan.

Trains always take their passengers on a journey, but for most passengers, there is a round-trip ticket in their pocket. For you, Karola Ruth Siegel, you’re being launched into a journey that will never end. The tug of home, the desire to see your father, mother, and grandparents even one more time will never really fade.

Of course, there were six million other Jews such as yourself, who not only weren’t able to go home, but whose lives were snuffed out for no other reason than they were born Jewish. So while you will bemoan your fate during the six years you will spend at the Jewish boarding school in Heiden, a school that for the German Jews became an orphanage, one day you will realize how very, very lucky you are. And later, coming to the realization of how fortune smiled down on you even as it was ripping your heart out, you’ll know that you have to squeeze more out of life than other people, because you are living not just for yourself but for your entire family.

I could never begin to explain to you the changes that are going to take place in your life. Even your names are going to be inverted, so that you’ll be known as Ruth instead of Karola. You’ll also feel bad about never growing to the height that most people do, but you’ll overcome all that and succeed in making a new family who will be more dear to you than you could possibly imagine, because they’ll be living proof that Hitler failed at wiping out your family.

And so as I sit here writing to you while on the stage of a theater where a show about your life is being performed nightly, all I can say to you is to try to have as much courage as you can. You’ll need it, but your bravery will be well rewarded.

Oh yes, one last thing. You know that time you made a ladder out of a chair and some books to reach that locked cabinet where Mom and Dad kept that book about sex? Give yourself a pat on the back for that.