Mother of Plaza de Mayo and Holocaust survivor Sara Rus died on Wednesday, age 97, her daughter Natalia confirmed to news agency Télam. An icon of the struggle for human rights in Argentina, Rus joined the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo after her son Daniel was kidnapped by the military in 1977.
“We sadly bid farewell to Mother of Plaza de Mayo and Auschwitz survivor Sara Rus,” the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo wrote in a post on X. “She arrived in Argentina in 1948, and the dictatorship disappeared her son in 1977. Until we see you again, comrade! We will continue to build memory so that crimes against humanity cease.”
Argentina’s military dictatorship was not the first genocide Rus faced. Born in Poland in 1927, she was only 12 when Nazi Germany invaded the country and began exterminating the Jewish population. Rus and her parents were initially sent to a ghetto, where she was forced to work at a hat factory.
They were later sent to Auschwitz, the deadliest concentration camp of the Third Reich. During her time there, Rus was also employed as slave labor in an airplane factory. It is estimated that of the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, 1.1 million were murdered; 90% of the victims were Jewish.
Rus survived the Holocaust and arrived in Argentina in 1948 with her husband, Bernardo, a man she had met in the camp. They entered the country through Paraguay and settled in Villa Lynch, Buenos Aires province. The couple had two children, Daniel, born in 1950, and Natalia, in 1955.
Daniel Rus, a nuclear physicist, was kidnapped on July 15, 1977. He was last seen leaving the premises of the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA, for its Spanish initials), where he had begun working the year before. Sara began a relentless search campaign following his disappearance, although she was never able to determine who kidnapped him or where they took him. He remains disappeared to this day.
In 2023, the Argentine government officially acknowledged that Daniel had been forced to abandon his post at the CNEA because he was a victim of state terrorism.