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Renowned Holocaust Survivor and German Filmmaker Visit Juniata

(Posted April 25, 2013)

Holocaust survivor Ruth Kluger

On April 17, Holocaust survivor Ruth Kluger and filmmaker Renata Schmidtkunz visited Juniata in order to present the film Landscapes of Memory--The Life of Ruth Kluger. Ruth Kluger has become a renowned scholar of German literature. Her autobiography, Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered was immensely popular upon its release and has been published in 12 languages. Schmidtkunz's film focuses on Ruth Kluger's life following her experience during the war, and how her past has impacted her present life. Below Ruth Kluger elaborates on some aspects of the film and her experiences.

Q: Where would you say your home is?

A: To me home is where your bed and bath is. Although I suppose you could say California is my home. As you saw in the film, I have a pretty nice apartment in Irvine. But I don't feel that it is my home in the same sense that my sons do, who grew up there.

Q: Did you ever consider resettling in Vienna?

A: No. Never. To me, Vienna is still very anti--Semitic. Although I have many friends there and it is nice to see them occasionally, I do not enjoy being in the city for long periods of time. However, I have revisited other cities that were caught up in the war such as Göttingen, but have not experienced the same feeling or resurgence of unpleasant memories. I believe this shows that there is a strong connection between our feelings towards or perception of a place and our experiences there.

Q: You've visited Vienna for short periods of time since the war. Can you describe your experiences there?

A: I did a guest professorship in Vienna, but my experiences there were rather unpleasant. While I was there I couldn't help but remember everything that had happened there when I was a child, and I realized that coming back was probably a mistake.

Q: You mentioned in your film that poetry played an important role in your life during your childhood and experience during the war. What about today?

A: It is still definitely an important part of my life. I can still recite Schiller's ballads from memory, which I learned when I was a child. Once you get me started, I can't stop.

Q: You mentioned that you have recently questioned whether you are the kind of person capable of surviving and experience such as the Holocaust. Can you explain?

A: Since the war, I've had the somewhat smug thought that I am a person strong enough to survive the Holocaust. But in recent years I've realized that this is no longer true. Sometimes the memories come back to me, but most of the time it's difficult for me to grasp the fact that I was ever even in Auschwitz.

Melissa Famularo '13, Juniata Online Journalist

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.