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Austrian swimming champion, Ruth Langer, models a line of swimwear.

Photograph | Digitized | Photograph Number: 49268

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    Austrian swimming champion, Ruth Langer, models a line of swimwear.
    Austrian swimming champion, Ruth Langer, models a line of swimwear.


    Austrian swimming champion, Ruth Langer, models a line of swimwear.
    1935 - 1936
    Vienna, Austria
    Variant Locale
    Photo Credit
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of John Lawrence

    Rights & Restrictions

    Photo Source
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
    Provenance: John Lawrence

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Ruth Lawrence (born Ruth Langer) was the daughter of Wilhelm and Frimette (or possibly Frymata) Langer. She was born on May 5, 1921 in Vienna, Austria where her father was a silk merchant. She had one brother, Alfred, who was two years younger. Ruth began swimming competitively at the age of 12. Her father brought her to the coach, Zsigo Wertheimer. who encouraged her to join the Hakoach swimming club. Hakoach, founded to counter Jewish exclusion from other sports clubs and to disprove the antisemitic canard that Jews cannot be athletes, had become the leading sports club in interwar Austria. Ruth represented Austria in the Maccabi games in Palestine, where she won the bronze medal. By the age of 14 she held eight national titles and the Austrian records in 100m and 400m free-style. She was guaranteed a place on the Austrian Olympic team along with two other Jewish girls, Judith Deutsch and Lucie Goldner, also members of Hakoach. When in 1936 all the members of competitive sports clubs marched in a parade through Vienna, spectators cheered and spat at members of Hakoach. At first the Jewish swimmers intended to attend the Berlin Olympics. They changed their minds after Lord Melchett, head of the World Federation of Jewish Sports Clubs, recommended that all Jewish athletes boycott the games. In retaliation, the Austrian Swimming Federation banned the girls from future games and expunged the records of all Jewish victories. After the German annexation of Austria, antisemitism increased further, and Viennese athletes forced Ruth to clean the SS and SA barracks. Ruth decided to leave Austria and in June 1938 went to a swim meet in Milan, Italy with false papers identifying her as a Catholic. She stayed in Italy until September 1938 and then went to England. There, she won the British long distance championship in 1939. Soon after, Ruth left for Italy, and her parents and brother fled to Czechoslovakia. They remained in Prague until the annexation of the Sudentenland and then fled to France. Shortly before the German invasion, Wilhelm moved to Chile, where he died shortly after the war ended. Trimette and Alfred remained in Paris until the German invasion in the spring of 1940 and then fled to Brittany, Pau and eventually to Nice, where they survived the war in hiding. In 1943 Ruth married Hans Liebermann (now John Lawrence), whom she had known since early childhood in Vienna. In 1996 the Republic of Austria and the Austrian Swimming Federation officially apologized to Ruth Langer and reinstated her titles and honors that they had repealed sixty years earlier.
    Record last modified:
    2005-06-06 00:00:00
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