DENVER — Artist Ruth Wilhelm grew up in Kassel, Germany during World War II.

“I was in the first grade when the war broke out,” said Wilhelm. “I remember coming home and my grandmother lying on the table crying.”

She remembers collecting and trading shrapnel for fun.

She also remembers spending her days and nights underground during attacks from military forces.

“We didn't think about it,” said Wilhelm. “It was a day-to-day thing. The war was on and we went to school and then came home and then went to the air raid shelters.”

To help pass the time underground, Wilhelm and some of the other children began learning an old German art called "scissor cut."

“It’s a black piece of paper and I draw on the back and then I cut that out and I have an original and then I print those cards from that,” Wilhelm explained.


She said her memories were the inspiration for her work.

They started making scenes of Christmas and New Years in December to match the season. They wanted to bring a little joy to everyone during those desperate times.

“We would make these cut-outs and put paper behind them and stand them up with a candle behind them,” said Wilhelm.

Wilhelm said they used cuticle scissors to get the details precise and each piece took about an hour to create.

“I’m amazed myself, I’m always asking ‘how did I do that?',” she said.

After the War, Wilhelm continued making her art and moved to Denver in 1974, eventually putting her designs on greeting cards.


Wilhelm kept up with the tradition as long as she could.

Now 86, her eyes are failing but she still hands out greeting cards to her family and friends to remind them of how valuable memories are.

“I hope they enjoy them and maybe wonder,” said Wilhelm.