Ruth Peter Worth Chronology
This Chronology was researched and written by Ron Van Cleef
Ruth Wertheimer (aka: Worth) was born into a well-to-do family in Halberstadt Germany on April 10, 1915.(1) Ruth’s mother Elli Bendix was born on August 23, 1893 and her father, Leopold Wertheimer, is listed as born January 16, 1893.(2) Ruth’s maternal family owned the “Frau Marianne Bendix” company, a corset manufacturing and repair company with approximately five stores. The company catered to an upscale clientele. Ruth’s mother later claimed the business suffered due to Anti-Semitism in the late 1920s (1929).(3) The documents reveal that Ruth’s grandfather was also a music teacher.
As a child Ruth is raised in Berlin.(4)
Ruth’s biological father Leopold Wertheimer dies (records do not indicate cause).(5)
Between 1921 and 1935, the family employed a housekeeper by the name of Bertha Thilescher.(6) Ruth’s family was fairly comfortable and could best be described as upper middle class.
The business owned by Ruth's Mother and Aunt suffers a decline in production due to anti-semitism. Ruth’s Aunt Johanna is falsely accused of a wrong doing (accusation not specified) which leads to a decline in her business and health. Ruth’s aunt needs gallbladder surgery but suffers from complications. Ruth’s mother attributes this to the earlier false accusation which she describes as anti-semitic in later restitution claims [See footnote 3].
In the spring of 1932, Ruth attends the Rackow Handelsschule in Berlin where the anti-semitism of her teachers and classmates forces her to leave before completing her two-year program. She is disappointed as she hoped to gain a senior-level position in industry or commerce after graduating.(7) This is also confirmed in her later compensation application.(8)
Ruth is still in Berlin where she spent a few weeks working for a company. She would later (1980) seek social security benefits for this. [See reference under 1917]. She was still in attendance at the Rackow Handelschule (trade school) as well. [See footnote 8]
Ruth attends a new trade school in Berlin, the Fuerstin – Bismarck School where she befriends Edith Margot Certe, (nee, Alexander/b. May 31, 1916). Edith is a year younger than Ruth and leaves later that year due to rising anti-semitism. She eventually settles in Victoria Australia where she is later married. Mrs. Certe later provides a sworn statement attesting that Ruth was forced to leave the Rackow Handelsschule.
Ruth’s parents may have emigrated to France this year. There is a note from a former housekeeper claiming she was employed by the family from 1921 to 1935 when they “emigrated.” The note is written later to include in compensation claims dated November 20, 1959.(9)
According to Ruth’s compensation application – she received little or no income from 1935-1943. She then acquired a position at the City College of New York. Her income never exceeded RM 350.(10)
On November 16, 1938 Ruth left Germany for Paris France. This may be a result of Kristallnacht (Crystal Night) which occurred from 9 to 10 November 1938. She may have travelled to the United Kingdom before going to France.(11)
On December 12, 1940, Ruth’s mother Elli Rosenfeld receives a letter from someone named Nelly. Nelly reminds Ruth’s mother that Hermann (Nelly’s husband?) is in debt because he sent them money. In the letter, Nelly describes her poor health (cardiac problems and sciatica) and the financial distress that she and Hermann are experiencing in New York. She also mentions that the two of them planned to gas themselves but changed their minds. Nelly than provides an overview of relatives/friends that are dead, sick or stranded in occupied territories and foreign lands.(12)
By December 24, 1940, Ruth and her family were planning their departure from France to the United States. In a letter addressed to Elli (Ruth’s mother) and Ruth, her Uncle William Bendix (already in Jackson Heights Queens) notes that he has petitioned the Emergency Committee on their behalf. He states that the committee normally only reviews political cases, but they are considering Ruth and Elli because family members were involved with the Anti-Nazi League [Hermann-possibly their cousin] and the German Democratic Party.Ruth’s Uncle William describes himself as a leading/founding member.
It is likely that the committee referred to is that of Varian Fry’s famous Emergency Committee. [Note: the organization helped hundreds of Jews, mainly intellectuals, escape France. The committee faced strict limitations by the Roosevelt Administration as critics of the program felt it would lead to job competition and political subversion in the United States].
Rosie and Ellie are instructed to write affidavits demonstrating their financial status and good character. An individual by the name of Hermann [possibly a cousin of Ruth’s] acted as a go-between for Elli, Ruth and William Bendix. Uncle William voices concern over Ruth’s grandfather’s deteriorating mental condition as this will complicate their petition for assistance. He also suggests that it might be best if “Mally" stayed behind. [the letter does not specify who “Mally” is]. Towards the end of the letter, William Bendix comments that he hopes to pick them all up from a boat in the New Year.(13)
A local court in Halberstadt declares that Ruth’s Uncle William Bendix is the heir of the Bendix Estate in the event his mother passes, but that all holdings will be held by the local government in Magdeburg. [This is probably a seizure of property, but the details are not clear]. The Estate is later estimated at RM 8, 610.00 in Securities and Cash equaling RM 11, 239.09.(14)
Ruth’s grandparents died five days apart. The cause of death is apparently natural causes and this is particularly traumatic for her. She notes in letters seeing her grandmother dead in bed. The grandfather passes March 4 and the grandmother on March 9. Ruth writes quite a number of letters to relatives concerning the deaths.
Apparently there were some hard feelings between Ruth’s aunts and the grandparents resulting from financial disputes over the family business. Ruth is upset that her grandparents did not have all their children around them at the time of death. Most of the hand-written letters between March and April in the “Ruth Worth Collection” are about these events.(15)
On July 1, 1941 Ruth and/or Elli write an angry response letter to her Uncle William (need to verify as heading is missing). The letter responds to a number of issues raised in his letter from December 1940 [See correspondence listed under 1940- there were also additional exchanges not present in the collection].(16) She chastises William Bendix for holding up their visas to leave France. She notes that he initially claimed to have Visas on May 1, but is still pressing her with questions concerning money and fees. She tells him her friend Mally and her cousins said they will have the money for the application. She suggests that William is holding the process of their emigration up because he is concerned about receiving his money. She also makes a reference to his current legal case for the grandparents’ estate, which is a cause of some strain between him and Hermann and Mally.(17) Ellen and Ruth remind him that they are facing a “life and death” situation.
Ruth worked at City College of New York (CCNY) between 1943 and 1949. This is confirmed in her later claims for compensation. She needs the CCNY letter to confirm her previously low income in the U.S. and her residency in the country.(18)
Ruth later provides forms from Hunter College concerning her income during this period. It is unclear if this is a reference to attendance, employment or financial aid [need to verify]. The letter from Hunter is dated April 1959.(19)
Ruth’s stepfather Israel Rosenfeld (b. 23 January 1890) dies on April 9. The German birth certificate lists him as being a film producer.(20)
Ruth’s mother writes the German Social Security Department pointing out how their family’s business suffered as a result of Anti-Semitism in 1929 (see documents referenced under 1915).
Ruth receives a letter from the Rackow School confirming her attendance in 1933 which she will later include in her compensation application.(21)
City College of New York provides Ruth with confirmation of her past employment to include in her compensation application with the West German Government.(22)
Ruth’s mother begins the process of filing for restitution claims via the U.S. Justice Department around July 1.(23)
Ruth receives a suicide note from a friend (the name is unclear). The letter’s author apologizes for killing herself but finds her life “barren and loveless” since the loss of L.G. (identification of "L.G." is unclear). Ruth's friend has chosen sleeping pills as she fears gas would alarm the neighbors. The note is articulate and sad. The letter is addressed to “Peter my darling.” It is not clear if the attempt was successful or not.(24)
As of September 1, Ruth’s uncle, William Bendix, was still trying to obtain his inheritance. His lawyer wrote attorneys in Germany confirming a listing of documents previously sent. He has a family-based agreement to share the estate with his two sisters, Ellen Rosenfeld Roberts (Ruth’s mother/Elli) and Johanna Kratz (Ruth’s Aunt).(25)
Ruth’s Uncle William files for compensation regarding financial losses to the German Democratic Republic/GDR. There is an agreement between the governments of the United States and East Germany to compensate people who suffered financial losses due to the Holocaust. The address for William Bendix is listed as 41-65, Seventy-fifth Street, Elmhurst, NY 11373.(26)
Ruth’s mother also receives a letter dated June 30 from her lawyer (also William Bendix lawyer) informing her he will be in Berlin and Frankfurt negotiating all his clients’ cases.(27)
William Bendix (Ruth’s Uncle) is informed by his lawyer, Werner Feilchenfeld that the West German Parliament has agreed to compensate current litigators for interest on funds previously on hold in the GDR (East Germany). This is effective February 1, 1979. The changes will bring an additional 10% interest on the claims he filed for. Oddly enough, William Bendix still has not settled his original case.(28)
On March 20, Ruth sends inquiries concerning possible “new” social security benefits for a job she had in Berlin in 1933 [see reference listed under 1917]
In a letter dated March 23, 1989. Ellen Rosenfeld-Roberts [99 years old or possible deceased?] is informed by the Bundesversicherungsanstalt fuer Angestellte (Federal Insurance Institute for Federal Employees/Social Security) that she will receive 524.80DM for child support.(29)
Ellen Rosenfeld-Roberts' address is listed as 115 East 82nd Street (as opposed to the earlier Jackson Heights, Queens address or the East 61st street address in Manhattan).
Notes to Ruth Peter Worth Chronology by Ron Van Cleef
1. Impfschein, Ruth Worth Collection, Personal Documents, Leo Baeck Institute, New York (hereafter referred to as Worth LBI). This is a vaccination form and the date is unclear.
2. Stammbuch: Der Familie Wertheimer, Personal Documents, Worth LBI, This is a family tree or album and it lists births and deaths with official stamps. The only death listed is that of Ruth’s father. The only other family members mentioned is Ruth’s mother Elli (Ellen) Bendix.
3. Draft of Notarized Letter from Elly Rosenfeld concerning the Corset Business in Halberstadt, 20 February 1957, Personal Documents, Worth LBI Letter from Ellen Rosenfeld born Bendix 23 August 1893. This document later appears in compensation requests to the West German government. Ruth’s mother mentions she is one and a half years younger than her sister Johanna Kratz (b. Bendix). They grew up together and attended the same schools. Their parents owned the “Frau Marianne Bendix” company, a well-known corset specialty business in Halberstad, which was the only corset specialty company in the area for approximately 20 years. In total there were five shops which the mother had opened in Halberstadt, in Wernigarode, Quedlinburg, Aschersleben, and Bernburg. The company mass produced high quality items (she mentions other undergarments) and also specialized in washing and repairing corsets. Their clientele were from the affluent areas of the city and rural districts. (Her husband’s four sisters helped manage the businesses). Her sister Frau Kratz took over the Halberstadt store from their mother in 1917. She claims the store run by her sister had an annual income of 6,000 Reichmarks a year and the family was well known in the area. The mother apparently opened a number of shops in the vicinity. Her husband’s four sisters helped manage the businesses. Mrs. Rosenfeld goes on to mention that the rise of Anti-Semitism in the late 1920s lead to a financial downturn for the sister’s store. Elli Rosenfeld claims that an individual made a libelous/false claim against her sister which eventually lead to the sister’s gallbladder surgery in 1929. The operation apparently did not go well and the two sisters were forced to sell the store. Elli Rosenfeld claims the sister still suffers from pain as a result.
4. Ruth Worth, Response to Ad in Aufbau, March 20, 1980, Personal Documents, Worth LBI. Ruth is requesting that an agency look into possible social security benefits as she worked for an unkown company for a few weeks in 1933. This a response to an ad placed in the Aufbau, a newspaper. Her address is listed as 230 East 61st Street at this point.
5. Stammbuch: Der Familie Wertheimer, Personal Documents, Worth LBI
6. Bertha Thilescher, Eidesstattliche Erklaerung, 20 November 1959, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. This is a testimonial letter for Ruth’s compensation claims.
7. Edith Margot Certe, Eidesstattliche Versicherung, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. [no date] The title could be translated “Sworn Testimony/Statement” This is a notarized letter from Edith Margot Certe (nee. Alexander, b. May 31, 1916). Edith apparently fled Nazi Germany in 1935 and resettled in Victoria Australia. According to the letter Edith was Ruth’s best friend in Berlin where they attended the Fuerstein-Bismarck School together in 1935. She describes how Ruth had attended an earlier trade school, the Rackow Handelsschule beginning in the Spring of 1932, but had to leave due to the Anti-Semitism of her teachers and classmates. Ruth had hoped to finish the two-year program and gain a senior position in the field of industry or commerce, but could not continue with her studies due to persecution.
8. Ruth Worth, Betrifft: Entschaedigungesache, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI, [no date]. This is a testimonial letter attached to other forms seeking compensation explaining the various documents attached.
9. Bertha Thilescher, Eidesstattliche Erklaerung, 20 November 1959, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. German
10. Ruth Worth, Betrifft: Entschaedigungesache, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI
11. Deutches Reich Reisepass, Personal Documents, Worth LBI. In 1941 she apparently left France for USA. There is also a stamp from the United Kingdom in November 1938 – not clear if she actually traveled to Britain.
12. Nelly to Ellen Rosenfeld, 12 December 1940, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI,. German.
13. William Bendix to Elli and Ruth Rosenfeld, 24 December 1940, New York, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. The letter concerns Ruth and her Mother’s attempt to leave France for the United States. William Bendix is writing to Ruth and her mother explaining the application procedures for the committee. He goes on to say that nothing can be done until he hears further word from the “committee” and that they should work on the Affidavit/s. He instructs them to provide a good description of their “moral” and “financial” status [Note: Roosevelt had only approved a certain number of emergency visas-it is likely that the émigré’s had to prove that they could survive on their own in the U.S.-tough financial times, critics of such rescue organizations feared that political subversives and job competitors would flood the U.S]. [This particularly interesting as this organization mainly helped noted intellectuals]. The author is less concerned about describing his moral status as he is his financial – claiming to be broke. The issue of money is a consistent theme in their exchanges and appears to cause a great deal of tension.
William Bendix mentions that he and his wife received word concerning the grandparents. He is happy that the grandfather is physically healthy but is concerned about his deteriorating mental condition. He goes on to say that this complicates matters considerably as "he [the grandfather] will not be able to write more than two words." He states he received Ruth and Elli’s letters through the Red Cross. He also voices concern over an ongoing conflict between the grandparents and “The Aunts.” He says none of them include the words “tolerance, insight, and generous” in their vocabulary. The writer describes their nerves as agitated and hopes that they (grandparents and aunts) “will meet the necessary conditions.”
William Bendix mentions that he and his wife are working and receiving a typical starting-salary for a 25 year old. He mentions they are going to school and can afford their rent and eat modestly. William also claims that his wife Paula makes her own clothes and “everything else will have to be put off for later years” and that they "would not be able to endure this life" if their future did not "look so rosy.” He mentions that they hope to have their state diploma in nine months and things will begin to head uphill [things will start looking up] – mentions that “Edith Dretel” hasn’t written. Writer mentions that they hope that in the new year they will be able to pick up all three of them (Ruth, Elsie and ?) from a ship – goes on to tell Ruth and Elsie that they have done enough for “Hermann” who is apparently involved in helping Ruth and Elsie with their affidavits, and acting as a sort of go-between for Ruth’s family and William (Herman is actually already in the United State.] There is an additional postscript scribbled on the typed sheet from Paula to Ruth and Elsie, but I can’t make it out. Note for some background on Varian Fry’s emergency committee see http://www.holocaust-trc.org/fry.htm
14. Dr. Mueller to William Bendix, 1941, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. German.This is a letter from the attorney Dr. Mueller to William Bendix concerning the estate of the Music teacher Bruno “Israel” Bendix and his Wife Marianne “Sara” Bendix, “According to the instruction of the district court, curatorship remains with the government of Magdeburg. According to the district court’s ruling of May 16, 1941 -4.VI. 139/41 Marianne Sara Bendix inherits the estate, followed by the son William Bendix (a businessman living in New York). The Estate consist of the following:
1. Cash = RM 11, 239.09 in the local branch of the Deutsche Bank in Halberstadt.
2. Securities [Gold mortgage bonds, municipal bonds, at an annual interest of 4.5% = 8, 610.00”
15. Ruth Worth, Excerpt of Postcard to Aunt Else, 15 March 1941, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. This is part of a series of excerpts from postcards retyped on two sheets of paper in the collection. In these excerpts Ruth writes about the death of her grandparents to various relatives. In this one, she mentions that the doctor was surprised at how quickly her grandfather (Opa) had passed on. She goes on to discuss that her grandmother was in a bad way (distraught/anxious). Apparently they died five days apart. Excerpt of Letter from Ruth Worth to Rosa Mayor, 16 March 1941, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German; Excerpt of Letter from Ruth Worth to Aunt Roachen, 21 April 194, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. Ruth mentions correspondence with other relatives, primarily Aunts and Uncles. She mentions who is and is not in touch.]Ruth Worth, Postcard to Aunt Else, 4 March 1941, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI. [The letter was received 26 April 1941]. Ruth Worth, Excerpt of Postcard to Aunt Else, 15 March 1941, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. [Received on 7 April 1941-Odd, the second postcard apparently arrived before the first one. Partial Translation -“My dear, you certainly will not have received the news that grandpa is gone from us forever. Now Grandma on March 9th has also gone to her final rest. We cannot grasp that we are now alone. What we have to go through everything in the last time and now dissolve the budget, yet this makes a lot of work. It has been ordered, since only the children inherit. But about this, you still get news and the will is to be opened, Ruth Worth, Excerpt of Letter to Aunt Else, 23 March 1941, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. [Letter received on 15 April 1941. There is more discussion about the grandfather and how upset she is that he could not be with all his children and grandchildren when he died].Ruth Worth, Excerpt of Letter to Aunt Else, 7 April 1941, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. [Once again she is trying to contact her Aunt Else to inform her that her parents (Ruth’s grandparents) are dead. She reiterates the point that the grandmother passed away only five days after the grandfather (grandfather March 4 and grandmother March 9). Ruth also mentions sleeping outdoors the last few nights as it is more peaceful.
16. William Bendix, Letter to Elli and Ruth, 24 December 1940, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. [William is writing from New York]
17. Ellen Rosenfeld and Ruth Worth, Letter to William Bendix , 1 July 1941, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, German. The original letter appears to have been torn into strips and reposted onto a sheet of paper. There are also references to earlier correspondence (i.e. May 23, 1941 that does not appear to be in the files).
18. Betrifft: Entschaedigungesache [no date], Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. German. This is a letter attached to other forms seeking compensation and explaining the various documents attached.
19. Betrifft: Entschaedigungesache Ruth Worth, [no date], Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. German.
20. Sterbeurkunde April 9, 1956, Personal Documents, Worth LBI, German. This is a type of death certificate for the film producer Israel Rosenfeld born 23 January 1890 (Elli Rosenfeld’s second husband).
21. Betrifft: Entschaedigungesache Ruth Worth, [no date], Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. German.
22. Betrifft: Entschaedigungesache Ruth Worth, [no date], Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI. German.
23. Letter to Mrs. Ellen Rosenfeld-Roberts from the U.S. Justice Department, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI, English. [Date unclear here, it looks like July 1, 1960].
24. Letter to Peter [Ruth] Concerning Suicide, 17 December 1963, Personal Correspondence, Worth LBI, English. The letter opens with “Peter my darling” What appears to be a suicide note from 17 December 1963. This is a suicide note from a very close friend (signature not decipherable) who had taken pills. She would have preferred to use gas, but was worried that her plan would be discovered if she went into a coma and “made some noise” Mentions having her old cat “put to sleep” rather than being sent off to kennels. Describes her life as “barren and loveless” since the loss of “L.G.” She refers to L.G. as a “him.”
25. Christian Clemens to Dr. Feilchenfeld , 1 September 1970, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI, German. This appears to be a cover letter for a series of documents concerning the assets/securities of the Bendix estate estimated at DM 1, 315. These claim issues were ongoing into the 1970s. It is written in response to Dr. Felchenfeld’s request letter of 18 December 1970.
26. Werner Feilchenfeld, Letter to William Bendix, 15 April 1975, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI, English.
27. Werner Feilchenfeld, Letter to Ellen Rosenfeld, 30 June 1970, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI, In the letter Ellen Rosenfeld (Elli/Ruth’s mother) is informed by her lawyer (same lawyer for William Bendix) that he will be in Berlin and Frankfurt negotiating all his clients cases.
28. Werner Feilchenfeld, Letter to William Bendix, 12 January 1979, Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI, English.
29. Bundesversicherungsanstalt fuer Angestellte, Letter to Elli Rosenfeld-Roberts, 23 March 1989., Restitution and Legacy Claims, Worth LBI, German