by Joshua Kiser, Public Information Officer, California Veterans Home – Yountville
World War II veteran and Holocaust survivor Paula Ross passed away Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. She was 97 years old. Her story was unique as a woman veteran who served as a German translator during World War II and a Holocaust survivor well known for sharing her story so that her experience might never be repeated.
Ross was a much beloved resident of the California Veterans Home in Yountville, where she lived for five years.
“Dr. Ross was a strong and inspiring woman. I had the good fortune to have many a discussion with her regarding her service and our common interests in relation to women veterans,” said Ursula Stuter, the Home’s Acting Administrator. “She will be missed by her many friends here on campus.”
The following quotes are used, with permission, from an oral history taken by Pacific Union College student Erica Gonzalez.
Born Aug. 25, 1920 in Vienna, Austria, she came to the United States as a Holocaust survivor in 1939, along with her younger sister. She arrived in New York, speaking no English, and soon found a job in a factory as a garment worker, sewing bathing suits.
“We were the lucky ones. I was only beaten under the Nazi occupation and I was not caught to land in a concentration camp,” she said. “Most of the rest of the family did go to some concentration camp. And most everybody did not survive.”
After she had saved some money, she sent for her parents, who had been living underground for two years.
She joined the U.S. Army as soon as she became a citizen, serving from 1944 to 1946 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey. The camp also served as a German POW camp and it was here that Ross worked as a German language translator. She translated books, records, documents and mail that had to be censored during wartime.
“I felt I wanted to give something back to the United States because they were good to me. They saved my life by allowing me to immigrate,” she said. “At that time, women in the military were kind of pioneers.”
After her military service, Ross used her GI Bill benefits to go to school in Los Angeles, ultimately becoming a chiropractor and a midwife.
She was invited to return to Vienna and share her story with high school students. She returned to Vienna three times. She admitted that she, and so many others, didn’t speak about the Holocaust for 50 years. It was only later in life that she began to share her story.
“I decided I must speak about it, to all people I meet, because a Holocaust should never happen again. People should never know what we had to go through.”
Last December, Ross was part of a group of WWII vets who got to visit the national World War II Museum in New Orleans, thanks to the Gary Sinise Foundation and its Soaring Valor program. See was featured in local news reports.
Ross is survived by two children, Cindy and Norman, and one grandchild, Gabriel. A remembrance services will be held Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018 at the Veterans Home of California – Yountville Memorial Chapel.