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Ruth Hannah (Wiener) Klemens

SALISBURY ­— Ruth Hannah (Wiener) Klemens, beloved wife of Paul Klemens, passed away on Oct. 29, 2011, after a courageous struggle with cancer. She had been a resident of Connecticut since 1967, living first in Manchester, then in Storrs, before moving to West Hartford this year.Although her profession was as a foreign language teacher, she was also a respected educator and frequent lecturer on the Holocaust. Her courage as a survivor gave her an international platform to remind the world: “Never again.”She was born in Berlin on Aug. 4, 1927, the child of Margaret Saulmann and Alfred Wiener. In 1933, the family fled to Amsterdam to escape the growing Nazi threat, where they joined a community of other displaced Jews. Her father, working as an intelligence agent for the Allied forces, journeyed to London in 1939. Ruth, her mother, and two sisters, Eva and Mirjam, were trapped in Holland when the Nazis invaded in 1940. Ruth was forced to attend a Jewish high school, where students disappeared with no warning, including Anne Frank and her sister Margot. Ruth, her mother and sisters were then arrested and sent first to the Dutch camp Westerbork, then to Bergen-Belsen, where Ruth sorted and cut up the shoes of concentration camp victims. While in Bergen-Belsen, she kept a diary of her experiences, even though it was not permitted. And at great risk to herself and her family, she attended secret religious services at the camp. In 1945, they were selected to leave the camp in one of the few prisoner exchanges of the war, and were given passports granting passage to Paraguay. Her mother, sickened from the camp, collapsed during the prisoner exchange and died a few hours later when the train reached Switzerland, a neutral country that did not take in Jewish refugees. Ruth shepherded her two sisters to safety on a Swedish hospital ship that embarked from the newly liberated port of Marseilles, and arrived on Ellis Island in New York City some days later. There, the sisters were reunited with their father, who then returned to London. The girls were separated, living with three different families, and Ruth attended the Robert Louis Stevenson high school in New York, where she graduated as salutatorian. After the war, the sisters rejoined their father in London, where Ruth received a B.A. at the University of London. Ruth met her husband, Paul, a doctoral candidate in physics, at Oxford University in October 1948, and they moved to his adopted country of Australia in 1950, where their two children, Michael and Susan, were born. They moved to Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1959 where Paul was employed by Westinghouse and Ruth was a foreign language teacher. In 1967, the family moved to Manchester, and Ruth was a foreign language teacher in the East Hartford school system. She also earned a Master’s of Education degree from the University of Connecticut. Ruth was a frequent speaker at Connecticut schools, synagogues and other institutions, where she championed human rights and freedom, within the context of her own Holocaust experience. In 2011, she received a citation from the Connecticut General Assembly for her work.Her Holocaust experience has been documented through countless interviews, including the Stephen Spielberg Shoah Foundation and the Yale University Holocaust archive. She donated numerous papers and artifacts to the U.S. Holocaust Museum, including a hand-drawn map of the camp and a receipt from the German government for her confiscated bicycle. She was active in the Wiener Library Institute of Contemporary History, founded by her father after the war. She has held numerous leadership positions with Beth Shalom B’nai Israel in Manchester, as well as the regional Hadassah organization.She is predeceased by her sister, Eva Plaut, who died in 1977; and is survived by her husband, Paul, of West Hartford; a sister, Mirjam Finkelstein of London; a son, Michael Klemens of Salisbury and daughter-in-law Nicole Klemens of Rye, N.Y., and their sons, Daniel and Robert Klemens; her daughter, Susan Klemens and son-in-law Daniel Root and their daughter, Melinda Root, of Alexandria, Va.; her brother-in-law, Ted Plaut of Madison; and three nieces and two nephews, Anthony and Daniel Finkelstein and Tamara Finkelstein Isaacs of London, Julie Furey of Madison and Karen Plaut of West Lafayette, Ind. Funeral services were held Nov. 7 at Temple Beth Shalom B’nai Israel in Manchester with interment in Temple Beth Shalom Memorial Park in Manchester. Arrangements were entrusted to Weinstein Mortuary in Hartford.A memorial period was observed at Summerwood in West Hartford following the interment. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial contributions be made to American Friends of the Wiener Library, c/o Gary Joseph, 7 Claudet Way, Eastchester, NY 10709.For further information or to sign the guest book for Ruth, visit www.weinsteinmortuary.com.

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