Ruth Harber of Valley Center and Anne Frank, one of the most discussed Jewish victims of the Holocaust, share a similar life as young teenagers: both spent two years in hiding from the Nazis in the early 1940s.
Although their lives mirror one another, Anne died in a concentration camp, but Ruth survived.
To commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the Valley Center History Museum is mounting a photo tribute to Mrs. Harber.
At age 14, she and her Jewish family went into hiding in Brussels in 1942 after the Nazis occupied the Belgian city. She spent two years inside a private home, sometimes in a cellar room carved out by her father. She learned English by reading a French to English dictionary and secretly listening to BBC shortwave radio broadcasts.
Her dream of freedom and an escape into the outside world came true on September 4, 1944, when Belgium was liberated. She recalled that she and her father walked five miles to join her mother and brother, who also were in hiding. Other family members perished in concentration camps.
Arriving in America in 1952, she found her way to San Diego County and, eventually, Valley Center. For 15 years, she was a personal assistant to Helen Copley, owner of Copley Press and publisher of the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune.
In 2006, Mrs. Harber spoke of her early life as a survivor during a presentation at the Valley Center Library. The event was part of a major exhibition co-sponsored with the History Museum featuring a replica of the attic in which Anne Frank and her family hid in Amsterdam. Although the exhibit was open to the public during limited admissions and limited hours over a 10-day period, more than 1,000 visitors passed through the rooms. The exhibit was created by the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture.
Now 91, Mrs. Harber is known to many North County residents for her activism over many years as a fighter for environmental causes. She was honored for her life work by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2005 when it issued a proclamation and declared June 14 as Ruth Harber Day.
A book, “And Somehow We Survive,” was written by her brother, Rudy Rosenberg, in 1970 and tells the story of their survival and harrowing years before and during World War II. In 1991, he attended the Conference of Hidden Children in New York
The photo display at the History Museum, 29200 Cole Grade Road, will continue through February. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12 noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, visit vchistory.org or call (760) 749-2993.
Robert Lerner is the historian for the Valley Center Museum
Republished from San Diego Jewish World