His Story Had a Voice Again 

When I was younger, I knew very little about my grandfather’s life in Germany and experience during the Holocaust. I knew that most of his family did not survive, including his parents and two siblings.

Goldfarb
A record of my grandfather’s brother and sister, both killed in Auschwitz. geb am means born on the followed by their birthdates. Todesort means death place. Verschollen means missing, lost, or forgotten.

His older sister was born in 1908. According to records, she married her husband  in 1930. He was also born in Poland. She was able to come to the United States and both are listed as living in New York on the 1940 census. They did not have any children. My grandfather first went to Columbia after the war and his brother to Israel. They both eventually came to the United States, married, and had two children. Each had a son and a daughter. My grandfather and his brother did not speak about the horrors they experienced.  It was in their past, too painful to remember, and they didn’t want to upset their children. They just wanted to move on.

For a long time, I thought most of his family died during the Holocaust. Growing up, I heard about a cousin that survived; she was only four years old when her family left Germany. I finally decided to contact this cousin. That phone call led to a trip to Florida to meet her and learn there were more survivors and generations of family I did not know about.

“Yes, there were many of us that survived.”

Hilda, my grandfather’s cousin, is now 85 years old and lives in Florida. She was born in Berlin, Germany and is the youngest of four children. Hilda was only four years old when she and her family escaped Nazi Germany. Visiting her was surreal. She had so many stories, through oral history and books, that she shared with me. She has visited Berlin, where she and our family lived. Her research traces my family back to the 1830s. It connected so many missing links I thought I would never find.

It felt like my grandfather was back and his story had a voice again. 

In Hilda’s possession were many books. My family is originally from Brooklyn, New York and I grew up in North Jersey. I moved to South Jersey in 2006 and couldn’t believe that I had distant cousins that settled in South Jersey after the Holocaust. Two of the books were published by Stockton University, which is only 45 minutes away from where I now live. My family’s history was at my fingertips and I was eager to learn more.

The family photos showed me what they looked like and the pages were the voices to their story.        

The Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton University was happy to help and share what they knew about my family. When you first walk into their center, their walls are filled with pictures of survivors interviewed for a book they published.

More voices to tell a story. 

Phillip
Phillip Goldfarb. Photo courtesy of the Sam and Sara Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center at Stockton University

In the gallery is a picture of Phillip Goldfarb. Phillip survived the Siberian and Kazakhstan work camps. After the war, he returned to Europe looking for family. He later immigrated to the United States and settled in South Jersey. Phillip also published his brother Julius‘ diary, detailing his own experiences. The diary was found after Julius died.

goldfarb books
The books written by Phillip Goldfarb. Published by Stockton University, New Jersey

Goldfarb, my grandfather’s name.

Although he is a distant cousin, I couldn’t believe I was seeing that name again and it was connected to my family. This man, his family, all connected to Hilda, who is connected to my grandfather. There were more survivors. Through their voices, I can better understand my family’s story and feel connected to my grandfather once again.

Phillip passed away in 2013 at the age of 91. Below are more resources about Phillip. 

Alone No More is a video by Stockton University in 2007. Phillip is first seen at 1:20 minutes and again at 7:58 minutes.

Phillip Goldfarb, 89: ‘Worry will kill you faster than illness’ Article published in The Press of Atlantic City. By Diane D’Amico, March 5, 2011.

Goldfarb, Phillip, 91 Phillip passed away on February 13, 2013. Obituary published in The Press of Atlantic City. February 16, 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Next Generation

About a month ago, I watched Schindlers List for the first time. I knew the story about Oskar Schindler and what he did but had never seen the movie. In the end, Schindler feels guilty for not saving more people. Itzhak Stern’s response was powerful.

Oskar Schindler: I could have got more out. I could have got more. I don’t know. If I’d just… I could have got more.

Itzhak Stern: Oskar, there are eleven hundred people who are alive because of you. Look at them.

Oskar Schindler: If I’d made more money… I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I’d just…

Itzhak Stern: There will be generations because of what you did.

“There will be generations because of what you did”.

That night, I did something else I hadn’t done in a while. I rocked my two-year-old son to sleep. In his quiet room, as he fell asleep, Stern’s voice was in my head. Generations because of what Schindler and many more people did. My own sons and my cousins’ sons, the next generation of a survivor.

As we approach Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) I am thinking about those who survived with the help of non-Jews, like Oskar Schindler and Nicolas Winton. They are called Righteous Gentiles. Non-Jews who risked their own lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. At Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, over 11,000 ‘Righteous Gentiles’ are honored. Many are unknown, but they are all part of an extraordinary movement at a terrifying time.

“Throughout history, there are always people who risk their own lives to do doing the right thing”.

Despite the horrors of history, there are always people who risk their own lives to do the right thing. People that defy the status quo and stand up for what they believe in. Take action to do the right thing. Often when students ask me why I teach history, I say, “People lived through what we study. Their voices are not in our textbooks. I often imagine how different life would be for us if we lived during another time and had to go through what they went through.”

“Learn from the voices of those who lived it”.

My own children will never meet their great-grandfather and will most likely never meet a Holocaust survivor. They will know him and their other great grandparents by the stories my husband and I tell them. They will learn about history like we learn about most history. From textbooks in a classroom. My hope is that my children and the next generation of students, including my own students, learn from the voices of those who lived it. My hope is that they listen to those voices, learn valuable lessons and make the world a better place in honor of those who came before us.

 

My Grandfather: His Life and My History

As a child, I loved visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn. My grandfather was a very artistic man and I spent most of my time doing projects with him. We ate homemade soup my grandmother made and took walks on the dock. To this day, when I see a pigeon I’ll run and chase it, just like I did when I was younger to make my grandparents smile. I did not get much time with my grandmother Jean; she passed away when I was just 8 years old. My grandfather, Arnold, passed away in December 2003 at the age of 90. He was a wonderful man and survived the Holocaust.

If my mother did not tell me what little she knew, I would never have known that he did. He never spoke about it. Neither did his brother, also a survivor. I only have a little information he told me in 2000 shortly before he passed away.  In high school, I traveled to Europe. My grandfather was happy that I had the chance to visit Germany, even if it was only for a few days. While there, we visited Dachau. My mother made me take out the pictures of Dachau when I showed my grandfather the photo album of my trip and told me not to tell him I was there. She didn’t want to upset him.

My grandfather was born on October 1, 1913 in Berlin, Germany to Josef (January 23, 1880 – 1943) and Tauba (April 18, 1885 – 1943), the second of five children. His parents and older sister, Fay (whom I am named after), were born in Poland. They had moved to Germany before my grandfather was born but kept their Polish citizenship. His younger sister and brothers were also born in Germany.

Although the family was poor, his family was close. They had many friends and enjoyed their time together. My great-grand father, Josef, was a tailor; my great-grandmother, Tauba, was a wig maker. My grandfather attended a Jewish school for boys from 1919 – 1928. He was active in sports and belonged to a Jewish sports club. He enjoyed running and boxing. After finishing school, he worked in a machine shop as a machinist and then became a furrier. He worked as a furrier in Germany until 1938.

As Polish Jews living in Germany, they decided to stay during World War II. In 1938, things turned in Germany. Many Jews fled Germany and because my grandfather was  machinist, he was able to escape. He left for Bogota, Columbia by himself and stayed there by himself until 1940. He then migrated to the United States to live with his sister, Fay, who was married and living in New York. My grandfather later married and had two children.

By 1937, his sister Fay was already married. She was able to leave Germany with the help of friends already living in the United States. Nathan was my grandfather’s youngest brother. He hitchhiked to Italy, Greece, Turkey, and then Israel which was under Great Britain’s rule. Nathan came to the United States in 1951. He married in 1953 and also had two children.

My grandfather, his sister Fay, and brother Nathan were the only ones to survive. His parents, sister Lena (September 1915 – 1943) and brother Eric (October 1911 – 1943) died in 1943. I’ve been told they were at Auschwitz. Many of their records and belongings were destroyed. I am still doing research to learn more about their lives before, during and after the war. Like my grandfather, Nathan did not speak about his life before the War. His son said it was a way to protect himself and his family from the horrors they endured.

April is Genocide Awareness Month and April 24 is Yom HaShoa (Holocaust Remembrance Day). For me, it is more than the six million Jews killed. It is for all who lived during that time period. All who escaped. All who risked their own life to hide, protect, and help others escape. All who liberated the camps. All who survived and gave birth to the next generation, and the next. My older son is named after my husband’s grandfather who served in World War II but is also the name of my great-grandfather. Even though my mother and I never met him, he is remembered. My youngest son looks more like a Johnson, but he has the bluest eyes and light hair just like my grandfather Arnold, the man he is named after. In my children, live on the memory of our grandparents and my children will carry on the next chapter of our history.

I hope our grandparents can see the joy my boys bring our family and how deeply they are missed because we remember them every day.