CGPS Welcomes Holocaust Survivor Ruth Millman

In honor of Yom HaShoah, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, CGPS welcomed Holocaust survivor Ruth Millman, who shared her powerful story of survival with members of the Prep School community. “This important day commemorates the millions of lives lost during the Holocaust in World War II, and our assembly this morning signifies not only that this is a time for our community to pause and reflect but also that we stand together against and condemn acts of violence and hatred,” said Prep School Director Scott Wilson during his opening remarks. He then pointed out that the Anti-Defamation League recently reported an all-time high in antisemitic incidents and stressed the importance of speaking out against acts of prejudice and discrimination. “Coming together as a community this morning to hear the account of today’s speaker, Holocaust survivor Ruth Millman, serves as a reminder that remembering, listening and developing compassion are the starting points from which we can prevent the cycle of violence from continuing,” Mr. Wilson explained.

Born in Warsaw, Poland, Ms. Millman and her family lived what she described as “a very sophisticated life” until the Nazis came. “One day, we looked out on our balcony, and Hitler marched into Warsaw. We saw the Nazis with their high boots. We saw German Shepherds open cars,” she remembered. “It was so frightening to see them walk through. We knew that Hitler had taken over Poland.” Shortly after, the Germans transported Ms. Millman and her parents and sister to a ghetto, where they lived in a two-bedroom apartment with two other families and had very little to eat. Meanwhile, news spread that Ms. Millman’s grandparents were brought to another location with more food and space. “Two weeks later, we found out that they were taken to Auschwitz. . . .  My grandparents were taken to the gas chambers, and they were killed,” Ms. Millman revealed. 

To protect the rest of his family, Ms. Millman’s father bribed three Nazi officers to get them out of the ghetto. Unfortunately, it was not as a whole family. Separated from her father and sister, Ms. Millman went off with her mother, who was to marry another man. “He was only obligated to stay with her for three months. It wasn’t a real marriage,” explained Ms. Millman, noting that the man left them after his three-month obligation expired. With no money and nowhere to go, Ms. Millman and her mother lived on the streets for a while before the Germans caught and sent them to a labor camp. While there, Ms. Millman became malnourished, and her mother worked 18 hours a day making guns for the Germans. Eventually, Ms. Millman’s mother hatched an escape plan, and they hopped on a nearby train, traveling for days and days.

Landing in Riccione, Italy, Ms. Millman and her mother took shelter in the mountains with a group of Soviet partisans until the end of the war. “One day, we heard tanks and saw American troops saying, ‘The war is over. You can go home now. The Allies have won. Everything is fine.’ We were very excited,” Ms. Millman recounted. Over the next few months, she and her mother hitchhiked back to Poland, where the American Red Cross helped them reunite with her father and sister. Ms. Millman said it as “the most wonderful reunion.” Eager to flee Poland, the family found their way to the United States and began a new life in New York City. Today, Ms. Millman is an accomplished entrepreneur who has run her own interior design firm for over 40 years and dedicates her life to Holocaust education, sharing her story with thousands of people.

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