Henry Golde: Holocaust Survivor
Published: Monday, April 6, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 01:01
Henry Golde spent five years in nine different Nazi concentration camps; today he lives to tell his remarkable story of survival. Golde made an appearance on campus on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 to speak about his experience as a Holocaust survivor.
He was born in Poland and lived in a city just west of Warsaw. Of the 3,000 Jews that lived in that town, only 50 survived the Holocaust. Golde lost his entire family due to the war.
Before the war, Golde attended a Jewish public school, where he was bullied and even suffered from abuse by his Christian classmates.
After being hit by a rock by one of the kids, Golde ran to his father's barbershop to receive whatever medical attention he could. Golde recalls that above all, his pride was hurt.
When he asked his father afterwards why the boys picked on him, his father replied, "you are one of the chosen people."
In Golde's hometown, there were two regiments of Polish armies. Everyone felt confident that the army would protect them during WWII. Golde even felt jealous; he wanted to fight in the war.
Golde started to see many different colored uniforms come in and out of his town, until finally, he saw the black uniforms of the SS (Shutzstaffel) - ardicthe elite army of Hitler.
Overnight, Jews lost their rights and were forced to wear the yellow star of David; yellow being a symbol of cowardice.
Golde was just 11 years old when his family was taken to a holding camp in the middle of the night and all of their possessions were taken away.
After the holding camp, his family was sent to the barracks where sanitation was horrible, as Golde recalls.
They were then sent on a train to the small town Galicia, Poland. Here, a selection was made as to who would go to the extermination camp and who would go to the concentration camp.
Jews sent to the extermination camp were killed in the gas chambers, and Jews sent to the concentration camp worked until they were unable to and then they were shot in the field.
When it came to Golde's turn, a German officer saved his life by placing him with the Jews going to the concentration camp.
Golde was placed in several different camps. He remembers several instances where he came utterly close to death.
One night, Golde got up to go to the bathroom during what the Germans called a blackout.
If anyone was caught getting up and walking around during a blackout, he or she was shot. Golde walked outside and walked right into a rifle.
According to Golde, the soldier told him to walk out to the barbed wire fence.
He heard another man walk up to them and ask the soldier with the rifle what he was doing. He then told the soldier to let Golde go. The two soldiers continued to argue until Golde was released.
Jews were only allowed one shower per month, and the walk to the showers was "terribly long." Most died of illness.
During that time, typhoid fever was a common disease. It was contagious and 99 percent fatal if not treated.
Any Jew with typhoid fever was placed in the barracks and killed. Although there was a doctor who diagnosed diseases, there was no medical treatment.
Golde felt a fever slowly coming on. He was placed in the barracks, but because his fever got better he was not killed by the Germans.
Of about 80 people with the disease, Golde was the only one that survived.
In a desperate effort to save his life, Golde talked about hiding in a pile of dead bodies behind a hospital barrack. He stayed there for one day while listening to shots and screaming.
Golde was told one day that the Americans would liberate the camp. This was unfortunately one of the many German lies.
Death march, a two-week walk to Czechoslovakia, was another horrifying event that Golde survived. The Jews were only fed twice during those two weeks.
When those that made it arrived, there were children playing and everything seemed to be fine. It turned out to be a trick that the Germans pulled on the Red Cross so they would believe that the Germans were doing humanitarian work.
Golde was at a camp that was finally liberated by Russians.
He was put in a children's home for about four months. He was then offered an opportunity to go to England, which is what he did for seven years from 1945-1952.
He came to the United States, where he remarried and now has three kids.
Golde truly believed that the world would learn its lesson, but he found that the drive for power and the amount of greed people have is just as strong today.
Today, Golde wants to know, "Why do we hate each other so much?"
According to him, when you hate someone you hate yourself more. Golde's message is: "Hate is nothing, and love is everything."
Golde tells his story at different schools to illustrate the impact that one human being can have on another.
His book, Ragdolls, tells the story of experiencing the horror of the murder factories and slave-labor and murder camps throughout Nazi Europe.