(WSVN) – She escaped Hitler’s Germany to come to America with her family. Now, at age 94, Rita Steinhardt Botwinick is a Holocaust scholar, author, teacher and the star of an exciting new documentary. Her story is Living History — and 7News reporter Brian Entin has it.
Rita Steinhardt Botwinick, Holocaust scholar: “I was 10 years old when this was taken.”
She survived the horror of Nazi Germany…
Rita Steinhardt Botwinick: “The Nazis came to power in 1933, and my life turned around. I had not known what anti-Semitism was until the Nazis came.”
Rita Steinhardt was just 10 years old then, living in the small German town of Winzig with her parents and brothers. They were one of only four Jewish families there.
Rita Steinhardt Botwinick: “My father was one of the men in Germany who believed Hitler would never last.”
But Hitler and the Nazis grew more powerful. Rita still has her mandatory ID card, which was issued when she was 15.
Rita Steinhardt Botwinick: “It says here, ‘German nation. J’ for Jew, and because I was obviously a very dangerous criminal, here’s my fingerprint. If I didn’t carry that with me, that was a criminal offense worthy of a concentration camp.”
The family waited months for their passports and finally escaped to the U.S. when Rita was 16. She grew up in New York and became a teacher, earned a Ph.D and wrote books on the Holocaust, including a memoir of her family’s struggle.
Ronnie Londer, Rita’s daughter: “Instead of being bitter or sad, she was able to teach; use it to propel herself and the family, which is a beautiful thing.”
She taught for 50 years, most recently at the University of Miami.
It was at one of her lectures that Victoria Luther met Rita and decided to produce a documentary on her life…
Victoria Luther, Calypso Media: “Rita’s house was here.”
… and on the town she left so long ago.
Victoria Luther: “I think the documentary is a story of perseverance. Not only from Rita and her family for escaping and starting a new life, but also the Germans that were left behind.”
The documentary, “Auf Wiedersehen in Winzig,” will be released in three languages and should be finished this spring.
Student: “Hi, Rita. How are you?!”
At 94, Rita doesn’t teach class anymore, but former students still drop by…
Rita Steinhardt Botwinick: “It’s wonderful when a student becomes a friend.”
She is working on a collection of her lectures and speaks at local libraries.
Ronnie Londer: “My mother’s pretty amazing. You never know with her. You have to keep dancing.”
Rita hopes her story is one we can learn from her life … a lesson in history for all of us.
Rita is also part of the WSVN family. She’s the mother-in-law of late 7News senior reporter Mark Londner.
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