Gabriel Goldschmidt

Jerusalem 2012

My name is Gabriel Goldschmidt. I live at the Beit Barth home for the elderly, in Jerusalem, Israel. It’s like that: I can say I am from Marburg and yet not from Marburg. So why do I say that? I grew up in Marburg as a small boy and I also have some memories of this time, unfortunately not that many. Because I was a small boy and used to live in Hamburg afterwards. In 1939 I came to England, unfortunately without my parents. My parents were killed in Auschwitz, also my father’s father who by then already lived in the Netherlands. But always when I came to Marburg, lately, I have visited the city several times already, I only have good, very good memories.

In Marburg, what I remember quite clearly: walking down the street… passing the town hall and then the steps, down to the Universitätsstrasse. And then I remember quite well, down the street to the left there used to be the synagogue.

As a seven-year-old I remember how my father goes to attend the religious service, my mother followed him with us at some distance, and we picked up my father afterwards. I must say that really was an impressive synagogue!


Life under National Socialism

There, one remembers things like this, yes… How I lost my first tooth because some rude Nazi boy hit me. Why? Because I was walking along the street, came home from school? … Do you have to hit a boy you do not even know? I mean, with all due respect, I mean if today your children go out into the street, that the first lout coming along knocks out their teeth, just like that.

Or: why did I never learn how to swim? Jews (must not?) defile a public bath. All those things were strictly forbidden to us. Such things, one unfortunately remembers too many of them. I for my part cannot forget them.
I would have liked to learn how to swim. My grandchildren, they are living in Haifa, they go to the beach all the time. I can go into the water only some few steps, getting my feet wet, but not in too deep.

Outside the burned books and suchlike lay scattered about. The synagogue [in Hamburg] was not demolished right away, it was only demolished later on. And when we went to school, our teacher told us first thing: “All of you, go home at once, don’t dawdle, don’t accompany some friend, go home as quick as you can!“ And then teachers came back, all of a sudden one teacher did not have a beard anymore but a bald head. Well something like this, one cannot forget it. And all the windows were shattered. My mother going out nevertheless looking for friends of ours…

I grew up in England. I left Germany when I was eleven years old. I was lucky in that the youngest sister of my mother was married to an English Jew. And because my grandmother, the mother of my mother, was also living in England I had a much easier time of it than many other children who got out with the Kindertransport. (so o.k.?)

In early 1940, my parents had obtained everything save for one transit visa… (so o.k.?) but that, they could not get. That is one reason my parents were killed. Well, somehow that still… one is still hurt by that. (so o.k.?)

But I don’t want to talk too much about this, because it hurts me. One simply has to face it, our generation has had a hard life. Only we must do everything we can to make it better. And the harder one works to this end the better.

Deutschland after 1945

The first time I went to Germany was in 1979, when they asked me whether I would like to visit Hamburg, to see Hamburg one more time and also to visit the graves of my grandparents. My great-grandfather you know used to be chief rabbi of Altona, before the time of chief rabbi Carlebach who was the last rabbi in Hamburg.

And they sent me an air ticket for a Lufthansa flight. My first thought in the plane was: how do I know that this pilot has not taken part in the bombing of London, for instance. And this girl who brought me my lunch: how do you know that she has not also been a member of the Nazi party, and has been ready to assist in the killing of my parents, and things like that. That was my first thought, but afterwards I never again had these thoughts.

I went to Germany three or four times a year, several years altogether, in order also to talk to pupils, and to take care of synagogues and cemeteries and so on, and only twice during that whole time I encountered true antisemitism. And that speaks for itself, doesn’t it? I mean, everybody was very nice to me everywhere I went and has also been very helpful.

I believe it is also very important that today the young people – that is mainly why I came to Germany so often – that they learn something about all this today, because that wasn’t the case thirty, forty years ago. I don’t know whether you learned anything at all about this in school, but today it is talked about at great length.