Sister Johanna

»Unser Rütchen bleibt ein Jüdchen.« (meaning: »Our Ruth is still a Jew«), this sentence shaped the childhood of sister Johanna, née Ruth Eichmann. As daughter of a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, Johanna grew up happily with both religions. She lead a traditional Jewish and Catholic life. Attending the synagogue and visiting a Catholic kindergarten at the same time wasn’t a problem for the family. Thanks to the foresight of sister Johanna’s dying Jewish grandmother she got baptized in 1933. It helped her to survive the Nazi dictatorship. By conviction and due to positive experiences in a monastery, she even joined the Ursuline Order later on and still kept the pride of her Jewish heritage.

»You can’t force faith. I think when you believe in God you are obligated to believe in your next one as a creature of God. With all his/her faults and all his/her weaknesses.«

born 1926 in Muenster (Germany), resides in the Ursuline monastery in Dorsten (Germany)

»Being in the midst of the world, among people, not distinguish by nothing but always being there for people.« This conviction and life philosophy of sister Johanna describes very well how we also experienced the open-minded, lively, helpful and strong woman. Our meeting with sister Johanna was a really great one and deeply impressed us. She faced us without any reservation. We met a woman who made horrible experiences. She felt anti-Semitism at her own body, she lost her Jewish family and lived in constant fear for many years.

On her way, sister Johanna got to know many fantastic and courageous people that put themselves at risk to protect her.  It started in her childhood when the Ursuline convent provided her protection against the Nazis and taught her to love one’s neighbour, to question the familiar view of things and to act for the good of the community. The convent and the sisters gave her the possibility to find her inner peace. There she could live free and was loved regardless of her origin. Therefore it didn’t surprise us that sister Johanna chose a life as a sister in the convent which has always been a loving and safe home to her. When we met her, we felt it – the convent is her right place. Walking with her down the same ancient hallway of the building sister Johanna already passed as a child brings her story to life.

Sister Johanna reports her experiences in a quite vivid way and describes the situations very precisely so her audience can imagine it perfectly. In a Jewish point of view, finding one’s right place to live is identical to finding God, explains sister Johanna.

One can notice sister Johanna’s inner peace: she is cheerful, she is laughing with us, she tells us jokes. Her reply to our question if she is happy is a clear and convinced »yes!«. When you think of her life experiences and her highly committed (maybe exhausting) lifestyle, her answer is quite a surprise.

Even though during our conversation we get to understand how strongly personal experiences affect people. The different parts of her life fit together now and form a quite complete life story.

When we think of our meeting with sister Johanna, we smile. We are happy and thankful to get to know her and we wish everyone to find inner peace like she did.

» Listen
» questions? Write sister Johannas second witness Ruth-Anne.


Wir von HEIMATSUCHER e.V. interviewen Zeitzeug*innen des Holocausts, dokumentieren ihre Geschichten und erzählen sie dann in Schulklassen und unserer Ausstellung weiter. Der Überlebende Elie Wiesel sagte einmal: »Jeder der heute einem Zeitzeugen zuhört, wird selbst ein Zeuge werden.« Und so sehen wir unseren Auftrag darin, als »Zweitzeug*innen«, (junge) Menschen stark gegen jegliche Art von Rassismus und Fremdenfeindlichkeit zu machen. HEIMATSUCHER e.V. ist laut § 78 SGB VIII anerkannter Träger der freien Jugendhilfe.

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