In 1936, 15-year-old Ruth Cohen was sent to Oxfordshire by her Jewish parents to escape the tyranny of Nazi Germany.

New anti-semitic laws, which would eventually cost the lives of millions, had come into effect and she had already been forced out of her school.

When she arrived in England, the Wood family, who lived in Great Milton, took her in and later helped her parents escape Germany as war broke out.

Her parents sent her to Oxfordshire as they were in contact with a group who were helping Jewish families.

Now known by her married name, Ruth Shire, the 90-year-old attended the opening of an exhibition about Oxford’s role in helping Jewish refugees, which opened at the Town Hall on Sunday.

She said: “I was very happy to be part of a large family and get away from the enclosed atmosphere in Germany, which had become very threatening. The Wood family were so generous and I am eternally grateful.

“In those day you had to secure a sum – about £300 – to say you would not be a burden on the state, and they helped my parents with that.”

Mrs Shire, a retired nurse who now lives in Birmingham, was joined at the exhibition by Sir Martin Wood, the youngest son of the family that had taken her in.

Sir Martin, 84, from Little Wittenham, the founder of Oxford Instruments, said: “My father and mother were always interested in persecuted people, particularly the Jews in Germany.

“Looking back now, I feel very proud of what they did. They stepped in on a number of occasions to help.”

Kay Baxandall, 86, who was also at the exhibition, came to Oxford as a Jewish refugee in 1933, when she was seven-years-old.

Her father was a professor of physics in Germany and had been blacklisted – effectively a death sentence – by the Nazi Party.

She said: “My father was very far-sighted. At the time no one took seriously what they were threatening to do to the Jews, but he did.

“He fought in the First World War on the German side so he got an insight into what the Germans were up to.

“I remember that we lived right opposite a big stadium where there used to be Nazi rallies, and brown shirts who would go up and down and sing their ghastly songs.”

Her father got a job at Oxford University and she went to Oxford High School for Girls.

Mrs Baxandall, who now lives in London, said: “Everyday I am thankful that we were taken in.”

The exhibition, entitled Persecution and Survival: A Wartime Refugee’s Story, is a collection of mementos, letters and memories from that time.

It was put together by Sally Crawford and Katharina Ulmschneider, of Oxford University’s Institute of Archaeology.

Dr Crawford said: “The exhibition is about Oxford opening its doors to refugees, and Oxford still has a role to play in that.”

The exhibition is free and runs in the town hall gallery, St Aldate’s, until Saturday, March 10.