This candelabra has become a symbol of perseverance from Ruth Zimbler.
She was born in 1928 as Ruth Mondschein, daughter to Markus Mondschein (1890-1961) and Helle “Hene” Mondschein (1896-1991). Ruth’s parents married in 1925 after meeting in Vienna. Her father worked as a mechanical engineer designing locomotives, but in 1930, he lost his job due to the 1929 financial crash. Ruth’s mother helped him secure a position with the Jewish community of Vienna, where he worked in the Department of Social Services. Ruth’s father spent much of his time helping Jewish migrants who were passing through Vienna and Austria with immigration forms. He was sent to Dachau temporarily, but was brought back to continue processing Jews out of Austria.
Ruth’s mother was a seamstress. She came from Brody, near Lemberg in East Galicia. She attended school from the age of 6 to 10 years old, when she was apprenticed to a local seamstress. By the age of 16, she became a traveling seamstress, working for wealthy families within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She lived in their homes and sewed trousseaus, including linens and nightgowns, for their daughters. She learned to set a table and absorbed everything about gracious housekeeping.
Ruth’s family lived in the Jewish complex that included the Great Synagogue, two apartment buildings where they lived, a central courtyard, the theological seminary, community offices, and a 400 year old library. People like the chief cantor in Vienna lived there with his family as well.
After Kristallnacht, Ruth’s family was locked out of their apartment for some days. When they returned, everything was gone: things of value but also regular household goods like their blankets. Ruth had just turned 10 years old in November.
Ruth was on the first Kindertransport out of Vienna on December 10th, 1938. Ruth and her younger brother were sent to the Netherlands. Within a year of their departure, they were joined in the Netherlands by their parents, who had secured visas to the United States. When her father surmised that they would be leaving Vienna, he realized he would have to make a living in an English-speaking country so he taught himself how to work with metal. He made this candelabra out of plain metal for Hene before the family arrived in New York in 1940. The candelabra was donated to the Museum in 2019.
You can sign up here to listen to Ruth Zimbler’s eyewitness account of Kristallnacht.