From the ages of five to eight, my step-grandmother snuck into three labor camps. She was looking for her mother. Meet Ruth.
  1. Neighbor befriends a German soldier.
    A young neighbor of Ruth knocks on her grandparent's door and informs them that they're rounding up the rest of the Jews in the ghetto to take them to Treblinka, a death camp.
  2. Grandparents agree and young neighbor girls take Ruth in the middle of the night.
    According to Ruth: "I either waited to die or I searched for my mother to survive."
  3. The German guard distracts the other guards and they run as fast as they can into the woods.
    They escape to a family friend's house in a farming village. The neighbor girls convince the family to take Ruth and they go elsewhere for shelter.
  4. Blend in with this new family and stay inside as much as possible.
    Ruth pretended that she was a distant cousin from Warsaw who was "visiting for a while."
  5. Hide when the Germans come searching.
    The mother of the family shoved Ruth into the oven (it wasn't on). She stayed in there, silent, for hours until they left. Apparently they found Jews hiding in the house next door and killed the entire family.
  6. Run when the family tells you to run.
    The oldest son of the family came up with the idea to take Ruth to the labor camp her mother was in. So, in the middle of the night, Ruth ran again.
  7. Dig a hole under the fence.
    After bribing the guards with money, they turned a blind eye. Ruth and the eldest son dig a hole under the electric fence and she sneaks into the barracks.
  8. Hide in the mattress.
    After searching the barracks, Ruth finds her mother. Obviously her mother had no idea how she got in there. But, there they were and they had to hide her. Since Ruth was so tiny, she hid inside of the mattress each day when her mother worked a 12-hour shift.
  9. Do this at two other camps. Get caught at the third.
    One day, towards the end of the war, Ruth couldn't take the boredom of waiting in the barracks all day for her mother to return. She was enticed by the rats who seemed to come back with scraps of food, so she followed their trail. It led back to the guards, but they just laughed. Scary, I know.
  10. Jump off the back of a truck when they decide you've been in the labor camp too long.
    Apparently, there were many other children hiding in this labor camp and the Germans wanted them gone. They rounded up all the kids into a pick-up truck and drove to the top of a hill, where they were greeted by a mass grave being dug.
  11. Run to the woman in the Red Cross cape.
    While Ruth was only 8, she knew what was happening. Apparently the guards began arguing with the men digging the grave, making it the perfect opportunity to jump out of the truck and down the hill back to the labor camp. As Ruth ran, she saw a woman in a Red Cross cape. The woman saw Ruth coming, scooped her up, and told her to not say a word.
  12. Hide in the mattress until the Russians come.
    Ruth was reunited with her mother and went back to her life hiding in the mattress. When the Russians invaded Poland, they invaded the labor camp. But, because of the chaos of the invasion, many of the women were able to escape, including Ruth and her mother.
  13. Run until you make it to Sweden.
    After spending almost two weeks in the woods, they found a way back to their old town of Kozienice, Poland, and eventually to Sweden (for 7 years).
  14. Sleep until you make it across the ocean.
    Finally, they landed in America. Ruth did not speak a word of English, but learned pretty quickly in the New York Public School System. She married a member of the New York Philharmonic, had two sons, and one of them happens to be my step-dad.