Begrudgingly accepting her mother’s advice, which was also validated by another prisoner working as a clerk, she gave her age to the guards as 15 instead of 12, which qualified her for forced labor instead of extermination.
As the war was ending, she remembered her mother telling the first American soldier they encountered that they had escaped from a concentration camp. “His gesture was unmistakable, she wrote. “He put his hands over his ears and turned away. My mother translated. He had had his fill of people who claimed they had been in the camps.”
“Here was my first American, and he deliberately closed his ears,” she recalled. “One thing, I figured, was certain: this war hadn’t been fought for our sake.”
After the war, she studied philosophy and history at the Philosophisch-theologische Hochschule in Regensburg while her mother worked as an interpreter. In 1947, they moved to New York where Ruth graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English from Hunter College in 1950. She worked as a librarian and earned a master’s in English and a doctorate in German literature from the University of California, Berkeley.
Her marriage in 1953 to Werner T. Angress, who taught European history, ended in divorce. In addition to her sons, she is survived by four grandchildren.
She taught at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the University of Kansas, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Virginia and Princeton. She first joined the University of California, Irvine, faculty in 1976, left for Princeton and returned after six years in 1986. She retired in 1994.
In the late 1980s, she was directing the university’s Education Abroad Program in Göttingen, Germany, when she was struck by a bicycle. Emerging from a coma, her suppressed memories of the Holocaust were unleashed. She wrote her autobiography, published as “To Continue to Live: A Childhood,” in German in 1992 and the English version nearly a decade later.