A legacy of faith the Holocaust couldn’t snuff out

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, March 4th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a series of Nazi camps where more than 1 million Jewish people were murdered.

EICHER: Auschwitz was the largest extermination facility, but it was just one of a network of more than 20 other camps—with hundreds of subcamps and holding locations spread across Europe.

BASHAM: One family’s prized possession is an oral history left to them by their mother, a Holocaust survivor. WORLD reporter Myrna Brown recently spoke with that family and has the story.

CHARLIE EISENBERG: Where were you born?
RUTH LIEBER RYDELNIK: I was born in Germany.

MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: Forty-five years ago, in a Brooklyn, New York, living room, Holocaust survivor Ruth Lieber told her story. Next to her, a Messianic Jewish rabbi held a compact cassette recorder.  

CHARLIE EISENBERG: You had an opportunity to leave…
MIRIAM KARL: His name was Charlie Eisenberg and he really wanted to see my mother’s story printed. 

That’s Ruth Lieber’s eldest daughter, Miriam Karl. 

RUTH LIEBER RYDELNIK: I remember at a very young age, I was searching…  

MIRIAM KARL: When I hear my mother’s voice, I feel comfort and I miss her.

RUTH LIEBER RYDELNIK: I believed in God at a very young age…  

MICHAEL RYDELNIK: When I hear my mother’s voice, I think of teasing her, which I did frequently.

As a child, Michael Rydelnik remembers his mother’s jet-black hair, her 5’7 frame, keen memory, and distinctive accent. 

RYDELNIK: And the teacher said, Michael’s very bright, but he doesn’t work. And my mom looked at me and said in her accent, “Vee have vays of making you vork.”  

Lieber died in 1984. Nearly every detail of her six-plus decades of life are bundled with rubber bands, on 10 cassette tapes. 

RUTH LIEBER RYDELNIK: My mother was a very submissive woman and my father was very domineering.

Ruth Lieber was born in Germany in 1922 into a traditional Jewish family. When the Nazi party came into power, her father was forced to flee to Poland. Her mother, gravely ill, remained in a German hospital. Ruth was placed in an orphanage run by Evangelical Lutherans.

KARL: She came to faith when she was 12. But she couldn’t get baptized until she was 16.

Lieber was given a small German Bible. A few weeks later, Rydelnik says his mother was reunited with her father in Poland. It was a rocky reunion.

RYDELNIK: He took her Bible when she was reading it and tossed it into the wood burning stove they had. Apparently he tossed it beyond the little bit of wood they had in there. It survived. And when she went to take out the ashes, it was in the back there and unburned. It was the providence of God…

After the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, Lieber’s mother, still ill, was immediately taken to the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Lieber spent time in 12 different facilities:

KARL: Some were transit camps. That means she was only there for a couple of weeks. She brought her Bible… 

As the camp’s infirmary nurse, Lieber hid her Bible in the one place she knew the soldiers would never search.

RYDELNIK: And there were typhoid patients that would come and the straw on the cot of the typhoid patients was just fully infected with typhoid germs.

KARL: So my mom kept whatever was precious to her with the typhoid patients so they never came near them.

Lieber never contracted the deadly disease. On May 8th, 1945, she was liberated by the Russians near the Czechoslovakia border. No one else in her family survived. 

With her Bible in tow, she traveled to a Jewish hospital in Berlin to care for other Holocaust survivors. While there, she took care of a premature baby whose mother died in delivery. 

KARL: And she wanted to adopt him. My father said, “I come with the baby”. Four weeks later they got married. 

Meyer Rydelnik knew his new bride was a follower of Yeshua, but he hoped it would pass. Four years after they married, they emigrated to America in 1952. Meyer Rydelnik forbade his young wife to ever speak openly of her faith. 

KARL: We always knew she believed in Jesus and as a young Jewish kid that was the deep dark secret of our family.

In 1971, Ruth Lieber Rydelnik broke her silence and her husband of 24 years divorced her. 

RYDELNIK: I felt like she had betrayed the Jewish people because Jews don’t believe in Jesus.  

With his sister’s support, Rydelnik decided to confront and challenge the woman who helped convince his mother to go public.

RYDELNIK: Hilda Koser. She served with Chosen People Ministries…

After months of debating Messianic prophecies, both Rydelnik and his sister reluctantly accepted their mother’s invitation to watch a film about the restoration of Israel.  

RYDELNIK: And I agreed with that. And then I came to the second part they talked about the same Hebrew prophets foretold the Messiah and I think at that moment I realized that if I were to be a good Jew, I would accept all that the prophets said. I would believe in the Jewish Messiah even if I was the only one who ever did. 

After the film, an invitation to accept salvation through Jesus Christ.

RYDELNIK: The man said, I see that hand. And Clair blurted out in front of 200 people, (gasp) it’s Michael. And my sister Miriam was angry. She came up to me and said “you rat fink!”

KARL: …You sold me out. I had a lunch date with Ms. Koser so I couldn’t leave and she said “well honey what would you like?” And the first words out of my mouth were to receive Jesus. So we prayed in Jan’s Ice Cream Parlor. Michael has always been two hours older in the Lord than me.

OPEN LINE: Hello Friends, welcome to Open Line. I’m Michael Rydelnik, professor of Jewish Studies and Bible.

Today, Michael Rydelnik is a Bible scholar, author and faculty member at Moody Bible Institute.

RYDELNIK: I feel part of the legacy that she gave me is that the Messiah comes first—that we have to follow him.

Mariam Karl, a wife, mother and business owner still treasures her mother’s German Bible and the passage from Matthew 18:22 Ruth Lieber Rydelnik modeled. 

RUTH LIEBER RYDELNIK RECORDING: Lord, don’t let any hate grow in my heart against the Nazis against the guards. Against the Germans. And I can say to God’s glory, that God listened to my prayers.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Myrna Brown reporting from Lawrenceville, Georgia.

(Photo/Myrna Brown)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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2 comments on A legacy of faith the Holocaust couldn’t snuff out

  1. Michael Reardon says:

    I lost my mom, in 2011. She was the spiritual and emotional rock in our large family of 7 children from Rochester, NY. She did not survive the holocost or suffer anything like Ruth Lieber RYDELNIK, but the story of Ruth brought tears of sorrow and joy. Ruth lived out her faith and left a lasting legacy that is embodied and memorialized with her fire-surviving-Bible and the stacks of cassette tapes. Hearing her story, I am inspired to leave my family a written legacy of my humble, loving mom, who impacted her family and friends with the love of Jesus also. Heaven celebrates saints like Ruth and Pat. Our job is to inspire future generations with their stories demonstrating their love and endurance. Thanks Myrna and World Radio for doing that today.

  2. David Rydelnik says:

    There’s more to the story.

    “With her Bible in tow, she traveled to a Jewish hospital in Berlin to care for other Holocaust survivors. While there, she took care of a premature baby whose mother died in delivery.”

    That baby was Sigmund Rydelnik, my father, and the woman who died was my biological grandmother. Ruth adopted my dad and married my grandfather, Meyer. So my father, born premature in 1948 (only 6 months developed in the womb) survived. A premature baby to survive in 1948?? This was indeed another miracle which the Holocaust could not snuff out either.

    My mother Cindy was unable to have children, yet 8 years into their marriage I was born. There’s a long list of miracles that I could write here about God’s provision in my own life, too.

    I’m glad this recording is up here. There were things here that even I didn’t know about my own family (and there are still things I don’t know, considering Ruth’s family not surviving, my biological grandmother not being able to carry my father to full term, and the records of our family and millions upon millions of other families’ histories that were destroyed by the Nazi’s.

    If someone in your family is the descendant of a Holocaust survivor, share their stories. The world needs to hear!

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