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Ruth Kluger, an essayist, novelist and wartime child survivor, dies at 88

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Ruth Kluger, a journalist, novelist and essayist, who turned her life experiences of Auschwitz and Belsen into a powerful, unflinching memoir of the Holocaust, died Oct. 13 in Berlin. She was 88.

She had been treated for Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2014, Kluger published “The Kindly Ones: The Life and Death of a Long Island Girl,” a wonderfully personal memoir that would become a best-seller in Germany. A year later, her American publisher, Beasley Creek, announced that it would publish the book in the United States.

Over the course of three generations of the Kluger family, the Jewish survivor of Auschwitz was nurtured and nurtured by her father, two uncles and a cousin, a piano-playing escape artist who also survived the Holocaust. In the end, Kluger was a war child, raised and educated by Catholics who did not care for her Jewishness or her Zionist background.

Her mother, the poet Judith Kluger, a literary critic and longtime resident of California, wrote about that life in a passionate essay for The New Yorker in 1992. “It is not small wonder that this little Jewish girl took to the world like a fish to water,” she wrote.

At the time, her father had died and her sister had recently died. As Ruth Kluger made her way to New York after the war, she was the eldest daughter of the pen names of Rachel Reschel and Lady Adelle Rosenblum (Adele) and lived with her father in Florida.

As a young adult, Kluger immersed herself in literature, particularly fiction and short stories. She never forgot her name. In “The Kindly Ones,” she writes of one family matriarch, Guzma Kluger, who “needed me,” she writes, for a way to escape her own life at the end of the century, and she would never let her daughter go.

In an email last year, Kluger’s sister told the New York Times that, after the war, “Ruth grew up with a sense of optimism and purpose that most of us don’t have at a young age.”

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