Houston woman who survived internment camp during Holocaust to receive France’s highest civilian honor at local museum

Holocaust Museum Houston to hold ceremony on Sunday

Ruth Krel Steinfeld (Holocaust Museum Houston, Holocaust Museum Houston)

HOUSTON – Houston Holocaust survivor Ruth Steinfeld, 88, will receive the French Legion of Honor, bestowed by Houston’s Consul General of France Valérie Baraban on Sunday.

The French Legion of Honor is France’s highest civilian honor. The ceremony will take place at the Holocaust Museum Houston, Lester and Sue Smith Campus at 3 p.m.

In a news release from the Holocaust Museum, Steinfeld’s extraordinary history was laid out: She was born in Mannheim, Germany to parents Alfred and Anna Krell on July 8, 1933. Ruth’s elder sister, Lea, was just 14 months older than Ruth. The family was deported to Gurs, a large internment camp in southwestern France. For months, the family slept on straw and consumed watery soup. To give their daughters a better chance of survival, Steinfeld’s parents sent them to Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a French Jewish humanitarian organization that assisted and rescued children in France and surrounding Western European countries during World War II. Steinfeld and her sister lived in various orphanages and stayed with a foster family.

Ruth and her sister Lea with their mother. (Holocaust Museum Houston)
Ruth and her sister Lea. (Holocaust Museum Houston)
Farmers Jean-Marie and Louise Chapot hid the sisters in their home in the French countryside. (Holocaust Museum Houston)
Ruth and Lea's grandfather being reunited with them. (Holocaust Museum Houston)
Ruth Steinfeld (Holocaust Museum Houston)

Steinfeld’s grandfather brought them to the United States in 1946 and died six months later. The girls moved with an aunt and uncle who treated them poorly. A Jewish relief organization gave the girls an opportunity to complete their studies and they decided to do so in Houston. Later, both sisters married and started families while staying involved and supporting many Jewish causes. Both sisters served on the Holocaust Museum Houston’s board.

Of the multiple Holocaust survivors, the sisters were some of the first to speak publicly about their experiences.

Steinfeld’s younger sister died in 2008, but Steinfeld continues to educate the younger generation through her experiences.

Established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the First French Republic, the Legion of Honor was created to recognize civil or military merit of brave men and women. The prestigious award is given to those of various professions and ranks who have displayed extraordinary bravery or service.

Go here to learn more about the honor.