Today in Israel is Yom Hashoa, the day when we remember the victims and the heroes of the Holocaust. Last January at the London Borough of Barnet International Holocaust ceremony I was privelaged to be able to speak about my grandfather Herbert Goldsmith. I am pleased to share my speeech here.
Holocaust Day Speech -January 2009
1. Seventy years ago this month in January 1939 my grandfather Herbert Goldsmith escaped from Nazi Germany on the Kindertransport to England.
2. My grandfather was born in 1922 and was named Herbert by his parents Moritz and Wilehmine Goldschmidt.
3. They lived in Delmenhorst a small town, near Bremen in northern Germany, which had a Jewish community of about 200 people.
4. My great-grandparents owned a clothes and linen shop.
5. As a child my grandfather attended a small Jewish school in the local synagogue.
6. My grandfather and the other Jewish children were able to play and be friends with the non-Jewish children.
7. In 1933 when Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power things began to change.
8. This included a law that non-Jews were not allowed to use Jewish shops, including my great-grandparents. Nazi officers stood outside and prevented people from entering.
9. By 1936 Jews were no longer to have non-Jewish friends.
10. By this time my great-grandparents had had to close their shop and move house as their home was surrounded by members of the Nazi Party. Herbert’s mother therefore became the sole earner as a seamstress, with my great-grandfather unable to find work.
11. In 1936 my great-grandparents in 1936 decided to send Herbert to Arlhem Jewish horticultural college.
12. This was so as to make it easier for my grandfather to have a skill which he could easily adopt anywhere in the world.
13. This later came in use, when after the war he settled in Golders Green and opened a nursery.
14. By 1938 the Jews of Germany had practically been removed from all public life.
15. Then came the events of Kristalnagt (the night of Broken Glass) on 9 and 10 November 1938, when the Nazis in Germany destroyed 267 synagogues, killed 100 people and smashed 7,500 Jewish stores.
16. In addition my great-grandfather was one of nearly 30,000 Jewish men incarcerated in concentration camps. My great-grandfather was incarcerated for three weeks.
17. My great-grandparents then realised that there was no future for Jews in Germany and worked to arrange to send Herbert and his brother Charles to England.
18. My great-grandparents had a cousin who lived in Golders Green, who was amongst the Jewish Community here lobbying the Government to allow Jewish refugees into England.
19. Following Kristalnaght the British Government agreed to admit Jewish children up to the age of 17 from Germany.
20. My grandfather Herbert and his brother Charles were therefore able to escape Nazi Germany in January 1939.
21. However, my great-grandparents were not able to escape.
22. My grandfather therefore communicated with them by letter, but shortly after the war began was never able to hear from them again.
23. My grandfather Herbert, as a 16 year old was one of the oldest children of the Kindertransport.
24. In England he was fostered by a cousin of my great-grandparents, who lived on The Vale in Golders Green and had one daughter called Rosalie.
25. Herbert and Rosalie began to develop a relationship, which was to continue with the start of the war.
26. However, with the start of the war, my grandfather as a German refugee was interned to a camp on the south-coast.
27. Despite escaping the persecution of the Nazi’s, the conditions in the interment camp for my grandfather and the other refugees, many of whom were Jewish were very poor.
28. These conditions were worsened when my grandfather was among the German refugees interned in 1940 to Australia by the British on the SS Dunera
29. In 1941 Britain offered the German Jews a chance to stay in Australia or to return to Britain and join the British army.
30. Due to the relationship that he had developed with Rosalie he decided to return to England.
31. Back in England, my grandfather joined the Pioneer Corps in 1943 and later in 1944 he married my grandmother Rosalie in Bradford, where she was serving during the war.
32. Following D-Day my grandfather served in Normandy and Holland.
33. With the end of the war my grandfather served as a translator for the army in Germany, where he was posted back to his home town in northern Germany.
34. My grandfather was always proud to say that he enjoyed punishing the former Nazi commander of his home town, who he had remembered from his time in the 1930s.
35. Following the end of the war my grandparents returned to The Vale in Golders Green, where they lived with Rosalie’s parents.
36. In the year’s following the war my grandfather put much effort into achieving retribution for the Kindertransport refugees, by seeking pensions from the German Government.
37. My grandfather was rewarded for this work in 1999, shortly before he passed away, when the German Government presented my grandfather with the Cross of the German Order of Merit for outstanding contribution to Fostering British German relations and German Jewish reconciliation.
38. My grandparents were able to have three children and I am one of eight grandchildren.
39. One important lesson I learnt from my grandfather is that it is important to put in effort to help others.
40. My grandfather was lucky to escape the worst experiences of the Holocaust and to have children and grandchildren who have contributed to society.
41. However, six million Jewish people, including one million Jewish children were not able to escape the Nazi’s and were murdered solely for being Jewish.
42. Therefore, as we remember the most horrifying genocide in history, when the Nazi’s attempted to destroy an entire people, we should also consider the lost children and grandchildren who were never born.
43. The Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sack’s describes how out of this Valley of Death the Jewish people have recovered and achieved one of its greatest era’s with the rebirth of the State of Israel and many great contributions across the world.
44. However, how much greater could the achievements of the Jewish people have been, if we had not lost the six million, and the tens or even hundreds of millions of children that could not be born.
45. On this Holocaust Day, I therefore ask you to remember what caused the Holocaust, so that we can stop similar occurrences from ever happening again.
46. And to make up for what could not be achieved by both the children who were murdered but also the children who were not born…
47. I ask you to consider how we each can individually help to make our society stronger.