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Yad Vashem The Story of the Jewish Community in Würzburg

Their Legacies Remain

Little Ruth
Ruth Fanny Hanover, 1923 – 1943

  • Ruth Hanover
  • Rabbi Dr. Sigmund (Shimon) Hanover
  • Rosi Hanover
  • Rabbi Dr. Sigmund (Shimon) Hanover and his second wife, Ernestina (Katzman)
  • The Hanover family, Würzburg. Bottom, from right to left: Ernestina, Rabbi Dr. Sigmund and Rosi. Top, from right to left: Little Ruth (Hanover), and Big Ruth (Katzman).
  • Childhood friends: Ludwig Pfeuffer (Yehuda Amichai), and Ruth Fanny Hanover. Würzburg, c. 1928. They were both pupils at the Würzburg Jewish primary school.
  • A Stolperstein bearing the name of Ruth Fanny Hanover in Würzburg
  • Ruth Hanover’s name commemorated on her mother’s grave, Klara Hanover (née Deutsch), in the Jewish cemetery in Würzburg.

Ruth Fanny Hanover was born in Würzburg in 1923, the daughter of Rabbi Dr. Sigmund (Shimon) Hanover and Klara Hanover (née Deutsch). Her elder sister, Rosi, was born in Fürth in 1917. Rabbi Dr. Hanover served as the rabbi of the city of Würzburg and the surrounding district from 1920.

In 1932, when Ruth was 9 years old, her mother Klara passed away. At the same time Klara’s sister, Ernestina Katzman, lost her husband. Together with her three children – Elsa (born 1911), Leo (born 1913) and Ruth (born 1921) – Ernestina moved to Würzburg, where in 1933 she married her brother-in-law, Sigmund Hanover. The family now had two daughters by the name of Ruth. Ruth Fanny Hanover was now called "Little Ruth", and her cousin Ruth Katzman Hanover was called "Big Ruth".

Little Ruth attended the Jewish kindergarten, and subsequently the Jewish primary school, in Würzburg. She was a close friend of a young boy of her own age, Ludwig Pfeuffer, who was later to become known as Yehuda Amichai. In 1934, when Ruth was 11 years old, she was run over by a car while on her bicycle and severely injured. One of her legs was amputated and she was fitted with a prosthetic limb. In 1936 the Pfeuffer family emigrated to Eretz Israel but because Rabbi Dr. Hanover felt a great responsibility toward the community, the Hanover family remained in Würzburg. Rosi graduated from the Jewish Teachers Seminary in Würzburg and between 1937 and 1938 she taught at a Jewish primary school in Köln. Ruth Katzman Hanover – “Big Ruth” – also attended the Jewish Teachers Seminary. Both Rosi and "Big Ruth" were members of the “Union of Religious Pioneers” (Brit Chalutzim Datiim, known by its acronym, Bachad). They emigrated to Eretz Israel in October 1938, and initially stayed with the Pfeuffer family in Jerusalem. Ernestina’s children, Elsa and Leo, left Germany and emigrated to Argentina.

In November 1938 – Kristallnacht– Rabbi Dr. Hanover was imprisoned along with hundreds of Jewish men from Würzburg, and sent to the concentration camp of Buchenwald. A month later, in December of 1938, he was released, after having given the Gestapo assurances that he would leave Germany within two months. Until such time, however, the Gestapo charged him with resuming his care of the Jewish community in Würzburg. Sigmund and Ernestina Hanover applied for help wherever possible in order to leave Germany for England or the United States; however, all their efforts to receive an immigration permit for their daughter, "Little Ruth", were unsuccessful. At this time a children’s convoy from Germany to Holland was being organized. Seeing no other option, the Hanovers sent Ruth to join the transport, and she left Germany for Holland in 1939. In Holland she was received by a series of foster families. She continued to attend school, and wrote regularly to her family, relatives and friends. In the meantime, Sigmund and Ernestina decided to move to England and from there to continue in their efforts to get Ruth out of Holland. They obtained an entry permit to the United States, provided that they arrive before the 5th of March 1940. In February 1940 the couple left England, hoping all the while that they would be able to send for Ruth once they had arrived in the United States. Their attempts to obtain an immigration certificate for her to Palestine were also unsuccessful.  

In May 1940, Holland was occupied by Germany, and sometime later Ruth Hanover was deported to the Westerbork transit camp. On the 18th of May 1943, she was deported to Sobibor.

Ruth Ruth, who died in my youth,
Now the two giants,
Yitgadal and Yitkadash, Magnified and Sanctified,
Will watch over your death
In place of the two other giants,
May He Bless and May He Keep,
Who failed to watch over your life. From: Yehuda Amichai, "Names, Names, in Other Days and in Our Times", in Open Closed Open, translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2000.