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Ruth Kluger (1931–2020), Holocaust survivor who wrote “Still Alive” memoir

by Linnea Crowther

Ruth Kluger was a Holocaust survivor known for her memoir, “Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered.”

Kluger’s Austrian childhood and beyond

A Jewish native of Vienna, Kluger was six years old when Nazi Germany annexed Austria. She and her family lived for several years amid increasing hostility toward Jews. Her father, once a well-to-do doctor, was arrested for performing an illegal abortion and was later killed. Kluger and her mother were imprisoned at Theresienstadt concentration camp when she was 11 and later transferred to Auschwitz and then Gross-Rosen. After years of forced labor and starvation in concentration camps, Kluger and her mother ran away while on a death march. After the war, they immigrated to the U.S., where Kluger attended college and eventually became a literary scholar, teaching at the University of California, Irvine. After a bicycle accident in 1989 that put her in a coma for several days, Kluger began to regain suppressed memories of her experiences in the Holocaust. She wrote these memories into her memoir, which has become a classic of the genre of Holocaust literature.

Kluger’s description of herself

“[A] woman who is perennially on the move, changing jobs and homes at the drop of a hat … a person who runs away as soon as she gets nervous, long before she smells danger. Because running away was the best thing I ever did, ever do. You feel alive when you run away. It’s the ultimate drug, in my experience.” —from “Still Alive”


Tributes to Ruth Kluger


Full obituary: The Washington Post

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