Ruth Kapp Hartz was four years old when she and her Jewish family went into hiding in a French village during World War II. Before the end of the war, she was separated from her family and sent to a Catholic convent under the pseudonym Renée Caper.
Hartz, who wrote a memoir about her experiences during the Holocaust titled “Your Name is Renée: Ruth Kapp Hartz’s Story as a Hidden Child in Nazi-Occupied France,” will speak at Chestnut Hill College today.
Nearly 70 years after the end of the war, Hartz is part of a network of living Holocaust survivors who speak throughout the country about their years during the war.
“We are the last living generation,” she said in an interview with NewsWorks. “I am part of the those who are the last witnesses of that period.”
“If you continue believing in racism and intolerance and persecution it could lead again to something,” she added. “You hear a lot about bullying these days and I don’t think any one should put it up with it. Hate never solved anything.”
After two years of hiding in a room in a house with her family, it became too dangerous for the family hiding them. It was decided her parents would begin hiding in a cellar and she would be sent to a Catholic convent. It was too risky to hide a young child in such a small space. At the convent, only the nun-in-charge was aware of her true identity.
“It’s very hard when you are a young child. I had no idea if my parents were alive or dead. I was too young to understand,” she said, adding that coming-of-age during the Holocaust meant that she simply thought her experiences were reflective of everyone’s lives. She had no recollection of life before the war.
After the war ended, “I realized that was not the way. Food was still scarce and there was no clothing to be had, but I did realize freedom was something else pretty early on,” she said.
Hartz was reunited with her parents soon after the end of the war. Her father was the sole survivor of his family. Her mother and maternal grandparents survived the war, but many other members of her mother’s family did not.
Hartz moved to Philadelphia as an adult to marry an American man she met in France. She spent over 30 years teaching French at Bryn Mawr College, Arcadia University and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy.
Chestnut Hill College will host the lecture “Your Name is Renée: Ruth Kapp Hartz’s Story as a Hidden Child in Nazi-Occupied France.” on Nov. 19, at 4:30 p.m. in the East Parlor of St. Joseph Hall.