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Hundreds of thousands of Jews started trying to leave Germany for the United States in the late 1930s. These hopeful émigrés faced many hurdles to get an immigration visa to the US. In 1939, Ruth Nathan was one of the German Jews who succeeded in getting such a visa.

Ruth, née Kühne, was born February 23, 1921, in Germany. She was adopted by Isaak Nathan (1880-1941) and Lisette Nathan née Harf (1882-1942), and grew up in Emmerich, Germany.

Years later, while preparing to leave Germany—on her own, without her parents—Ruth had to carefully choose what to take with her.

People wanting to leave Nazi Germany were required to provide German officials with a detailed list of their property. They were then made to pay a tax on this property. The handwritten list on one side of graph paper shown below was made by Ruth as she prepared to leave. The script at the top of the document translates as: Page I: Items which were in my possession before 1.1.33. The column headers translate as “Items” and “Remarks.” The list includes linens, a doll, clothing, and cutlery.

List of possessions in preparation for emigration to the United States (page 1)
List of possessions in preparation for emigration to the United States (page 1). Gift of Ruth N. Taub. 1336.91.
Mezuzah given to Ruth Nathan as a child
Mezuzah given to Ruth Nathan as a child. Gift of Ruth N. Taub. 1334.91.

One of her selections was a small mezuzah. She said it was given to her “probably” by her parents and that “It was always part of” her things. As a young girl, Ruth worshipped at the synagogue in Emmerich and took part in activities held at the adjacent Gemeinde house.

Ruth made it to New York, via England. Back in Europe, her father Isaak was arrested in 1941 and died in prison; her mother Lisette was sent to Riga where she died in 1942.

On Jun 27, 1947, Ruth married Leo Taub, a professor. They returned to Ruth’s hometown of Emmerich in 1953, where she picked up a tile in the rubble of the remains of the synagogue where she had worshipped with her family. She remembered that this tile was part of the floor in the entrance foyer of the synagogue.

Ceramic tile from the Emmerich synagogue
Ceramic tile from the Emmerich synagogue. Gift of Ruth N. Taub. 1160.90.

Leo died June 11, 1984; Ruth died 20 years later on June 29, 2004.