Ruth Jacobsen spent her first childhood in Germany. It ended one night when she was six years old and hiding in terror as she watched people being thrown from windows. It was Kristallnacht, the Night of Breaking Glass.
Her family fled and found haven in the idyllic Dutch village of Oud Zuylen. There Ruth became a child again.
When she was eight, the Germans invaded Holland. When she was nine, her grandmother was put on a train and never seen again. Soon she was wearing a Jewish star on her coat. When she was 10, she was separated from her parents. Frightened and alone, she went from house to house, hiding from the Nazis in the homes of strangers. Ruth Jacobsen's childhood was over forever. For the rest of her life she tried to forget her loss.
One day, forty years after the war, she opened an album of family photographs that had lain in a box at the bottom of a closet, untouched.
"My fear had always been that I would break down or become hysterical," she writes. Instead, she transformed the images into art, creating a series of vivid collages that pieced together her shattered childhood. As she worked, long suppressed memories came to the surface. She wrote them down.
The result is a unique document of a life and a time. Rescued Images combines Ruth's collages and her moving memoir of the wrenching events of a half century ago. Young Ruth Jacobsen is brought back to life on these pages: frightened and bewildered, buffeted by forces she cannot understand or control, bending but never breaking.
Ruth Jacobsen emigrated to the United States in 1953. She began creating collages and constructions in the mid sixties and for the last three decades, she has exhibited them in solo and group shows. Her work is represented in 30 private collections in the United States, Canada and Europe. She works from her home in Southhampton, New York.
My mother told me this. When I was four years old, I was standing at the top of the steps of our house in Frankenberg, Germany. A bunch of young children were yelling at me: "Juden Stinker, Juden Stinker." My mother ran outside when she heard them. She saw me standing there, facing them and yelling back "Juden Stinker," having no idea what it meant.
When I was ten, I became a "hidden child." For two and a half years, I was hidden from the Nazis in the homes of strangers who had the courage to take me in. After the war, when I heard of the horrors people experienced in concentration camps, I felt that in comparison I had it easy. It took me many years to realize that my own life had been shattered.
Even after I emigrated to the United States I did not talk with my relatives there about the war years, and they never asked.
When my family fled Germany in 1939 we had to leave everything behind. Our landlady in DÃ¼sseldorf sent our trunks to us in Holland. We only received one of them, but in it were, among other things, our family photo albums.
In 1942, when we were forced into hiding, we again had to leave everything behind. Cees van Bart, a Dutch neighbor, entered our house after the Germans had sealed it off to rescue things that were of value to us. He took his life in his hands. If he had been caught, he and his family could have been shot or sent to a concentration camp. He found the photo albums and hid them in his house. When the war ended he presented them to us.
When I emigrated to America I took the albums with me. They remained packed in a box for about forty years. I knew they were there, but could not look at them.
For years, as an artist, I created books of collages, mixing photographs and paint. Many of the images I used in my first books were of people in war and turmoil. Their agony moved me.
One day I found the courage to pick up the albums. My fear had always been that I would break down or become hysterical at seeing my parents' images again. Finally I was able to put aside the fears I had felt for so many years and look at them.
The photographs evoked feelings I could only express in collage form. I needed to move the photographs out of the albums and into my life. I used the original photographs, as well as letters, other images, and acrylic paints to create collages. In the process of working with them, more and more of the past came back. I began to remember ...