Beginning in 1941, Ruta's Closet captures the extraordinary survival story of the Jewish Kron family and their neighbours during the Nazi occupation of Lithuania. The eldest daughter of Meyer and Gita Kron, Ruth, with writer Keith Morgan, helps tell this harrowing story of life under Nazi rule.
Pre-war, the Jewish population of Lithuania was estimated at more than 200,000 people. In 1945, the Krons were three people among a surviving population of only 2,000. The family then lived under Soviet rule before fleeing in May 1946. They arrived in Canada in 1951, Ruta became Ruth and went on to marry, have a family and pursue a career as Director of the Women's Resources Centre at the University of British Columbia. Little was said about her horrific past and the adult Ruth struggled to come to terms with her wartime experience. As Ruth grew older, the need for reflection and a perception of rising anti-Semitism finally persuaded her to tell her story.
Vancouver journalist Keith Morgan met Ruth in 1999 when he was working on a series for The Province newspaper about outstanding community members. After learning about her Holocaust survival story, Morgan created a four-part youth-oriented series for The Province. The series was an unprecedented success. The pair then decided to translate Ruth's experience into a biography. The resulting Ruta's Closet is based on Ruth's own memory, primary source family journals and interviews with survivors. The story is supplemented with Morgan's research on the period including details taken from trips to the Kron's hometown of Shavl, Lithuania, as well as Israel, Poland and a number of US cities where survivors currently reside.
Ruta's Closet is a work described by noted historian Sir Martin Gilbert as "...one of the finest Holocaust memoirs." It is hoped that the educational message of Ruth Kron Sigal, who passed away in 2008, will live on through this book. Her legacy also continues through The Meyer & Gita Kron & Ruth Kron Sigal Award, a award given annually at UBC's Youth Holocaust Symposium to an elementary or high school teacher who has demonstrated a commitment to Holocaust education.