Ruth Jacobsen Collection
Scope and Contents
The collection contains materials that pertain to the life and work of Ruth Jacobsen. Series I contains Ruth Jacobsen’s personal materials and writings. Personal materials include family documents and photographs spanning the years 1880s- 2000s. The bulk of the collection is made up of drafts of Ruth’s written works, including Ruth’s Tale and Rescued Images. Bibliographic materials as well as the draft of Ruth’s translation of the fairy tale Die Zauberdrachenschnur can also be found in the collection. Lastly, the series contains folders created by Ruth Jacobsen with materials about individuals and groups.
Series II consists of correspondence between Ruth and various individuals. Most correspondence pertains to Ruth’s search for answers in regard to her childhood in the Netherlands. The largest part of the series is the correspondence between Ruth Jacobsen and Sister Zusta Calasancta, a friend and mentor from the Netherlands. Other correspondents include organizations like Joods Historisch Museum, Yale University, and the International Red Cross.
Ruth’s art and art materials make up Series III in the collection. The art mainly consists of collage books reflecting on Ruth’s early life, as well those documenting her travels across Europe with her wife, Christine Ereifunia. Materials used by Ruth to make her art are also included in the collection. Photographs and art slides in the collection are of Ruth’s art and exhibits. They mainly document her wall constructs and AIDS activism art.
Series IV contains published materials including a few newspaper articles, health brochures, and information about books removed from the collection. The brochures contain information about AIDS awareness published in the 1980s.
- Majority of material found within 1950s-1990s
Language of Materials
The collection is in English, Dutch, and German.
Conditions Governing Access
Open to researchers.
Conditions Governing Use
There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection.
Ruth Jacobsen was born on April 8, 1932, in Frankenburg, Germany to Walter and Paula Jacobsen. She grew up in the shadow of the Nazis’ rise to power and the restrictions they imposed on Jewish life. She often referenced an immense feeling of isolation that arose from social alienation and stigma associated with being Jewish. The Kristallnacht marked a turning point for Ruth and her family; she fled with her parents to the Netherlands in 1939. The only remaining trace of their life in Germany was a single suitcase with family memorabilia that was shipped to them by their Christian landlady.
Ruth and her family eventually settled in the village of Oud-Zuilen in the Netherlands, where Ruth could once again be a child. In 1942, they were forced into hiding where they were aided by the Dutch Resistance. Their belongings were kept for safekeeping by their neighbor Cees van Bart, who saved their sentimental items from destruction. Within two months of hiding, Ruth was separated from her parents and hidden by multiple Christian families. As a young child, she held a feeling of great responsibility not only for herself, but also for the families that hid her.
Towards the end of the war, Ruth was reunited with her parents. However, unable to cope with the trauma of the war, both of Ruth’s parents committed suicide soon after. Ruth emigrated to the United States in 1953 with the help of distant family members. In the United States, Ruth became a textiles designer and then the first female projectionist in New York. In her spare time, she cultivated her artistic abilities as an outlet for self-expression and activism. Her collage works center around the subjects of the Holocaust, the 1980s AIDS crisis, and indigenous rights.
After her retirement, she dedicated herself to her art. To cope with her childhood traumas, she created multiple works of art and collage books from original letters and family photographs. She wrote two books and gave testimony to younger generations. Ruth Jacobsen passed away on February 19th, 2019.
3 Linear Feet
5 Folders (5 oversized folders)
The collection contains materials relating to Ruth Jacobsen, a Hidden Child of the Holocaust and the first female projectionist in New York. A lot of the collection is dedicated to Jacobsen’s attempt to cope with her past as a Hidden Child and sharing her testimony with others through her art. The collection is arranged into four series and six subseries. Materials in the collection include manuscripts, collage books, photographs, artworks, correspondence, and notebooks.
The collection had been arranged thematically. Original order when applicable was preserved.
- Series I: Personal, 1885- 2019
- Subseries 1: Official Documents 1885- 2007
- Subseries 2: Personal Photographs, 1926- 2000s
- Subseries 3: Writing, 1990s-2000s
- Subseries 4: Individuals and Groups, 1940s- 2019
- Series II: Correspondence, 1953-2004
- Series III: Art and Art Materials undated, 1980s-2000s
- Subseries 1: Art, undated, 1980s-2000s
- Subseries 2: Art Photographs, undated, 1980s-2000s
- Series IV: Published Materials 1930s-1990s
Series IV: Published Materials, 1936-1990s, is stored in the LBI Clippings Collection.
A number of dictionaries and books were removed from the archival collection during processing. Copies of their title pages were retained in the last folder of the collection.
The book Camping Through Europe by Car by Ruth Jacobsen and Ann Grifalconi was moved to the LBI Library.
Jewelry and a snakeskin in a box were removed to the LBI Arts and Objects Collection.
During processing, folders were grouped to form series and subseries. Original order when applicable was preserved. Dictionaries and books were removed from the archival collection.
- Guide to the Papers of Ruth Jacobsen
- Agata Sobczak
- Language of description
- Script of description