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Dr. Ruth Westheimer is one of the world's most recognized authorities on sex. She has delivered her advice on TV, radio and the web for decades and has written numerous books.
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Ruth Westheimer was born on June 4, 1928, in Frankfort, Germany. In 1939, her family sent the young Ruth to Switzerland to escape the Nazis. Moving to New York in 1956, she worked for Planned Parenthood. A lecture she delivered in 1980 led to a radio talkshow called Sexually Speaking. The show was a hit and Westheimer became a nationally recognized authority on sexual matters. Dr. Ruth has written numerous books and still lives in New York City.
"I want people to be sexually active until the age of 99."
Psychologist, author, broadcaster, family and sex counselor Karola Ruth Siegel was born June 4, 1928, in Frankfort, Germany. She grew up the only child in a privileged Orthodox Jewish family; her father, Julius Siegel, was a prosperous notions wholesaler. Her mother, Irma Siegel (nee Hanauer) was a cattle rancher’s daughter. A curious and inquisitive child, Ruth often crept into her father’s library and read his books, which first piqued her interest in human sexuality. However, her carefree childhood was cut short when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Ruth’s world was violently shattered by Kristallnacht, and seven days later, by the SS who came to take her father. The remaining family members decided to flee Germany to escape the widespread and increasingly violent anti-Semitism.
Ruth was sent to the protection of a Swiss school, which eventually evolved into an orphanage for Jewish refugee girls. She never saw her family again, and now believes they perished in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Ruth suffered immensely during this time and was treated like a second class citizen at the school, working as a maid for the Swiss Jewish girls. She frequently caused concern amongst the teachers with her loquacious nature and willingness to share her knowledge on taboo subjects, such as menstruation, with the other girls.
After the war, Ruth emigrated with some of her friends to Israel, then Palestine, and became a Zionist. She changed her first name to Ruth and joined the Haganah, the Jewish underground movement fighting for creation of a Jewish homeland. On May 14, 1948, Israel declared its Independence and on June 4, Ruth’s birthday, she was wounded when a bomb exploded outside the kibbutz where she lived, taking off the top of one of her feet. Her recovery was difficult and slow.
Because of her tiny four-foot-seven-inch frame, Ruth frequently worried that she would never marry, lamenting in her diary, “Nobody is going to want me because I’m short and ugly.” However, in 1950, an Israeli soldier from her kibbutz proposed marriage and she accepted immediately. The two moved to Paris, where Ruth studied psychology at the Sorbonne and her husband studied medicine. As Ruth later recounted to McCall’s magazine, “Everybody around me didn’t have money. We went to cafes and had one cup of coffee all day long. Everybody.” The marriage ended after five years and her husband went back to Israel.
Upon receiving a restitution check for 5,000 marks (approximately $1,500) from the West German government, Ruth left the Sorbonne and sailed with her French boyfriend to New York, where a place to live and a scholarship to the New School for Social Research awaited her.
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