The Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Collection was the life-long project of Ruth Borchard (1910-2000), an extraordinary patron of artists. Ruth Borchard was born in a fishing village near Hamburg on February 10th 1910, the daughter of an assimilated Jewish businessman, Robert Berendsohn and his wife Alma. Brought up as a socialist and freethinker, she studied economics and social psychology at the university of Hamburg. In 1937 she married Kurt Borchard, who ran the family shipping business in Hamburg (and later in London). She fled from Germany as a Jewish refugee with her husband in 1938, eventually settling in Reigate, Surrey with their four children.
A prolific author, Ruth Borchard wrote children’s books, a biography of the political economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill (1957), an erudite and poetic book on roses, On My Own Rose, a study of Jewish mysticism (1989), murder mystery novels and a semi-autobiographical account of her time interred on the Isle of Man during the Second World War, entitled “We Are Strangers Here: An ‘Enemy Alien’ in Prison in 1940”, written but not completed in 1943 and which only came to light after her death. First published in 2008 by Vallentine Mitchell (London and Portland, Oregon), this novel is a mixture of fiction and autobiography, and tells the story of a young German refugee, Anna Silver, arrested as an ‘enemy alien’ in Britain in 1939, and her subsequent detention in Holloway Prison – a story which, in some of the broad details, mirrors Ruth’s experiences on the outbreak of war. Critics have described it as ‘a rare document’ and ‘a moving and compelling book’, it is full of poignant, sometimes tragicomic episodes and details.