Ruth Weinmann's School Years, 1934-1945

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In the fall of 1934, Ruth entered kindergarten in Eisleben.  Boys and girls went to separate schools for kindergarten and the first eight grades and were only educated together in high school.  It was a large school with roughly 200 girls in each grade.  Teachers stayed with their assigned class and taught all of the academic subjects.  All of the teachers were male, with the exception of a female instructor for physical education classes. 

After several years of correspondence between her parents, they determined that neither was about to move to be with the other.  They divorced in 1935, but Andreas continued to send support payments to assist with Ruth's expenses.

From a fairly early age some of the other schoolgirls gave Ruth a hard time or even bullied her for being different - even though she had no memories of the United States, she was an American citizen.  This was well before World War II started, but being the only American in a school set her apart for some children.  When she got older and the United States entered the war, she was looked at with suspicion by many.  The Hitler Youth picked on her incessantly and degraded her by dipping her pigtails in the ink well.   They ostracized her for her outsider status and never let her forget it. 

Teachers were mandated to have the children do family histories.  They were required to go back five generations to see if there was any Jewish history.  If there was then the teachers were required to report this to the Nazi government for action.  Ruth had Jewish childhood friends, who were there one day and gone the next, and she was never sure where they went.

Bertha eventually married Gustav Rohkohl on November 8, 1938.  Ruth now had a step-brother named Gerhard Rohkohl, who was seven years older than her.  Ruth and Bertha then moved to 7 Pulvergasse in Eisleben.  Initially Bertha gave up her job as a secretary in an attorney's office, but when her new husband refused to give her money for some of Ruth's needs, she went back to work.  As time passed, Gustav became physically and verbally abusive to his wife and step-daughter, so they were not unhappy when he left to serve in the German military during World War II (as did Gerhard).  The two died in action on the Russian front in 1944 and 1945 respectively.  

Soon after World War II began, local officials took over the Eisleben girls' school to use it as a military hospital.  After that the boys and girls shared the other school with the girls attending school in the morning and the boys in the afternoon.

Schooling was available for all at no charge through grade eight, but after that parents were charged the equivalent of $30 per month to have their child attend high school. Although Ruth would have loved to go to high school for the full four years and even go on to college, her mother decided after two years that they could no longer afford to pay her tuition.  Her last day of school was on April 30, 1945, soon after her 16th birthday.

At least twice during her school years Ruth participated in summer exchange programs in which she went to live with families in other parts of Germany for several weeks.  Her mother worked full-time and searched out such programs so that Ruth was not home alone when school was not in session.  In 1940, at the age of eleven, she visited the town of Zwontitz, near the border with Czechoslovakia and about 187 kilometers from Eisleben.  It was more than five hours away by train.  In 1944, when Ruth was 16, she stayed at Hedersleben, about 60 kilometers northwest of Eiseleben.

Ruth Weinmann on her way to kindergarten, with the Catholic church in the background  Ruth Weinmann and her uncle Ernst Boettcher
Ruth on her way to kindergarten in Eisleben, with the Catholic church in the background, 1934 (with her in the second picture is her uncle Ernst Boettcher)

 Ruth Weinmann with her doll  Ida Vogel Weinmmann and her sister Louise Vogel Kolbe
Ruth with her doll, 1934; Ruth's grandmother Ida Vogel Weinmann in Wolfen, Germany, with her sister Louise Vogel Kolbe, 1934 (Ida died the following year and Ruth's grandfather later remarried)

Ruth Weinmann in school
Ruth in school, October 12, 1935

Ruth Weinmann with cousins Rosemary Gunderrman and Johanna May pose with their schultutes
Ruth (center) with her cousins Rosemary Gunderman (left) and Johanna May (right) and their Schultutes (These school cones were purchased by parents or godparents and were filled with candy.  They were presented to school children on the day they first entered school.  Rosemary and Johanna started school a year after Ruth and this photograph was taken on April 16, 1936 (at the end of a school year), so the empty cones had been saved for taking this picture); 

Ruth Weinmann and her classmates  Grandfather Andreas Weinmann with his second wife Anna at their home in Sandersdorf, Germany 
Ruth (second from the left in the second row) and her school class, 1937; Ruth's grandfather Andreas Weinmann and his second wife Anna at their home in Sandersdorf, Germany, ca. 1937

Ruth Weinmann with her aunt Anna Weinmann Wolf  Ruth Weinmann with her aunt Anna Weinmann Wolf
Ruth visiting her aunt Anna Weinmann Wolf in Wolfen, August 7, 1938

Ruth Weinmann at the door of her aunt Anna Weinmann Wolf's house  Ruth Weinmann with her aunt Anna Weinmann Wolf
Ruth on the steps of her aunt Anna's home, August 7, 1938; Ruth with Aunt Anna, August 10, 1938

  Ruth with her host family while on a student exchange in Zwonitz  Ruth with her host family "sisters" Barbel and Helga at Zwonitz  Ruth with her host family "sisters" Barbel and Helga at Zwonitz
Ruth with her host family "sister" Barbel at Zwonitz
Ruth with her host family during her exchange visit to Zwonitz, July 1940.  Her host family "sisters" were named Barbel and Helga (Helga was the younger one).

Ruth Weinmann with her friend Sonja  Gerhard Rohkohl
Ruth with her friend Sonja at the zoo in Halle, ca, 1944; Ruth's step-brother Gerhard Rohkohl, ca. 1944

Ruth with a frniend during her exchange visit to Hederslebe  Ruth Weinmann  Ruth and a friend at Hedersleben
Ruth and a friend (or perhaps host "sister") during her student exchange at Hedersleben, Germany, June-July 1944

Ruth Weinmann
Ruth in March 1945, shortly before she finished school

Chapters

Ruth Weinmann Munsell oral history interview
concerning her life in Germany, 1930-1947