Ruth Maier was born into a middle-class Jewish family in interwar Vienna. Following the Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, the world of the substantial Viennese Jewish community crumbled. In early 1939, her sister having left for England, Ruth emigrated to Norway and lived with a family in Lillestrom, about thirty miles from Oslo.
Ruth Maier kept a diary from 1934 until she was deported to Auschwitz in 1942 at the age of twenty-two. Although she was only in her teens, she shows a sophisticated understanding of the political forces shaping Europe.