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Ruth Politzer, 93, Fled Germany, Became Athlete in South America

September 3, 2009 By:
Aaron Passman, JE Staff
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Ruth Politzer

Ruth Politzer, of Glen Mills, who survived persecution by the Nazis and went on to great athletic success in South America, died Aug. 20 at the age of 93.

Born in Germany, Politzer left the country in 1934, after the rise of the Third Reich, heading first to England for three years on a visa purchased by her parents and then to Argentina.

It was in South America that she and her sister, Jean, joined a number of athletic clubs. That led to competition in the 1939 South American Championships for Athletics, where Politzer went on to win gold medals in javelin and shot put.

In subsequent games, she also competed in basketball, eventually going on to compete with River Plate, a top team at the time, which she led to several national championships.

In 1946, when the United States lifted its immigration quotas for Jews, Politzer and her sister immigrated to the United States, arriving in Philadelphia before joining the rest of their family in Elmhurst, Queens.

She made her home there and raised her children, working secretarial jobs after her husband's death in 1967.

Upon retiring in 1982, she moved from New York to Tom's River, N.J., to share an apartment with Jean; the pair moved to Glen Mills in 2007.

Although she spent most of her life in the United States, Politzer never forgot how her native land had effectively broken up her family.

She returned to Germany in 1985 on an all-expense-paid trip, but according to her daughter, Judy Politzer, she would not have gone had the German government not footed the bill.

Her daughter also pointed out that in 1990, the two sisters went on a cruise along the Black Sea, but when the boat docked in Germany, the pair refused to set foot in the country. The reason? That trip was on their own dime.

In that same spirit, Politzer was said to have refused to purchase German-made cars or other items produced there.

Despite it all, her daughter said, Politzer always had a smile and never seemed to be negative: "She was dealt a lot of rotten lemons, but she made gold lemonade out of them."

Donations in Ruth Politzer's memory can be made to Plan USA (www.planusa.org), an organization that provides assistance to families raising children in developing countries.

A memorial is planned for Politzer on Oct. 10 at Maris Grove Chapel in Glen Mills.

She is survived by her sister, Jean Caro; son Frank Politzer; daughters Margie and Judy Politzer; as well as seven grandchildren and several nieces, nephews and cousins.

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