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‘Never Again’ Means More at This Year’s Holocaust Survivor Day

The klezmer band struck up a happy tune, and people who survived the Holocaust during World War II left their seats and began to dance. That embodies the spirit of Holocaust Survivor Day, to celebrate the lives of the survivors.

Tuesday marked the third time it was celebrated in the Philadelphia area. Gov. Josh Shapiro and former Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney officially recognized Holocaust Survivor Day last year. About 85 Holocaust survivors came to the Holocaust Survivor Day event at Keneseth Israel [K.I.] in Elkins Park.

Jason Holtzman, Jewish Federation director of the Jewish Community Relations Council spoke. His paternal grandparents, Sally and Herman Holtzman, survived the Holocaust along with two aunts.

Sally Holtzman lived through the war by hiding with her family in a barn in Poland.  When Nazi soldiers set her family’s home on fire, she ran back into the burning house and saved her baby sister. Herman Holtzman survived Auschwitz, the infamous death camp.

His grandparents met each other in a displaced persons camp after the war, eventually moving to Philadelphia.

Participants dance at the Holocaust Survivor Day event at Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel on June 4, 2024.


“Despite the unimaginable horrors they endured, they exemplified resilience and lived each day with profound happiness,” said Holtzman. “As a descendent of Holocaust survivors, I have a deep appreciation for life, a sentiment shared by many second and third-generation survivors.”

Before the Holocaust, Poland was home to 3.3 million Jews, he said. Afterward, only 300,000 remained.

“We must remain vigilant and committed to educating future generations about the horrors of the past to ensure they are never repeated,” said Holtzman.

That’s the mission of Chuck Feldman, president of the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center [HAMEC], which is also located at K.I. HAMEC has a program to send survivors to visit schools, either in person or through Zoom. It reached 160 schools this year and survivors have told their stories in thousands of schools over the years.

“We have a saying, people will talk about the Holocaust and say, ‘Never again.’ With respect to education, we say, ‘Never enough.’”

Daniel Goldsmith, 92, attended the luncheon. Goldsmith, who lived in Belgium at the time of the Holocaust, had spoken with DVJournal before. Goldsmith, who was a child at the time, survived with the help of Catholic nuns and priests.

Jason Holtzman

Feldman said it amazes him that Pennsylvania does not have mandatory Holocaust education. However, he noted a survey showed Pennsylvania millennials know more about the Holocaust than students in states where it is a mandatory part of the curriculum: New Jersey, New York, California, Florida, and Illinois.

State Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro) and Joe Hogan (R-Penndel) introduced a bill that would require the Department of Education to write curriculum guidelines for schools offering Holocaust and genocide instruction. It would also require transparency so parents know what their children are learning. The bill is still in committee.

“You are an inspiration to us all,” Paula Goldstein, president of the Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia [JFCS], told the survivors.

“Since Oct. 7 events too devastating to comprehend are unfolding in our world and our community,” she said.  They are “living proof of that hope and resilience,” she said.

Dr. Marcy Gringlas, cofounder with her husband, Joel Greenberg, of the Seed the Dream Foundation, brought her mother, Reli Gringlas, a Holocaust survivor, to the event.

Marcy Gringlas said she deeply misses her late father, who survived Auschwitz.

“In 2021, Seed the Dream Foundation worked with our global partners to establish a special day to honor you, our cherished Holocaust Survivors,” she said. “We wanted to celebrate and honor your courage and your resilience, and the remarkable lives that you have built. Now in its fourth year, Holocaust Survivor Day events are happening around the world. Seed the Dream Foundation is proud to be supporting events in 26 communities here in the United States.”

Jonathan Ornstein with the Jewish Community Center in Krakow, Poland came up with the idea for the Holocaust Survivor Day, along with Rabbi Michael Berenbaum, after they both identified the need for a day to focus on the life and resilience of survivors. The idea was a day survivors wouldn’t have to share with the memory and tragedies of the Holocaust.

Partners for Tuesday’s event included 3G Philly, Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors Association, Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, and Sons & Daughters of Holocaust Survivors.

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Hatboro Man Was Hidden From Nazis by Nuns, Priests as a Child During Holocaust

Hatboro resident Daniel Goldsmith spent World War II living in fear while he hid from Nazi soldiers in his native Belgium.

Goldsmith, 90, now tells students about what happened to him during the Holocaust through the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center (HAMEC) at Keneseth Israel in Elkins Park. Goldsmith tells his story so the younger generation will know what happens when people hate.  Recently, Goldsmith spoke to Delaware Valley Journal while filming a documentary with filmmakers Jill Frechie and John Ricciutti of Main Line TV.

In May 1940 Nazi soldiers invaded Belgium. Goldsmith, his parents, Ruchel and Chaim, and his baby sister, Lillian, fled Antwerp on foot but did not get far before they were caught. They returned to their house and “tried to re-establish a normal life,” he said.

Filmmakers John Riccuitti and Jill Frechie, with Holocaust survivor Daniel Goldsmith

“But very soon the Germans came out with the anti-Jewish decrees. The decrees were very severe and very cleverly done over a period of time. They restricted our movements and our civil rights.”

“Teachers, doctors and lawyers were eliminated from their professions,” he said.  Jewish business owners had to put up signs that the business, showing that was owned by Jews. Gentiles were told not to shop there. Then, they imposed a curfew.

“Just because we were Jewish, we could no longer enter public places,” like parks, movies or museums, he said. Jewish children were barred from public schools and Jews were made to wear yellow stars.

“I remember wearing my yellow star on my jacket,” he said. “In the beginning of 1942, my father was given a notice in the mail to go to a forced labor camp. I remember my parents discussing it.”

“He felt he could survive,” said Goldsmith, because he was only 39 and strong. “There were two things (his parents) didn’t know. Number one: the existence of concentration camps. Number two: the initiation of ‘The Final Solution,’ which was the total destruction of the Jewish population in Europe.”

On Aug. 15, 1942, his mother, sister and 10-year-old Goldsmith went to the train station to say goodbye to his father. It was the last time he saw his dad, who the Nazis sent to Auschwitz, after the work camp.

“It was a scene that I will never forget,” said Goldsmith. “There were thousands of people there, saying goodbye to their loved ones, a lot of hugging and kissing.”

“Most of all, I remember the words my father said to me: ‘You’re the little man of the house now. So you have to help take care of your mother and sister.’”

Soon afterward, in the middle of the night, military trucks blocked their street at both ends, and Nazi soldiers went door to door dragging out Jewish families.

“It was very, very easy for them because we had registered,” said Goldsmith. “They knew exactly where we lived.”

The attic where Danny hid

His mother’s bedroom was in the front of the house and she heard the noise and commotion and looked out the window and saw what was going on. She grabbed a blanket, him and his sister. She hurried them up a ladder and through a skylight to the roof.  They laid down flat behind the cornice that hid them. Eventually, they heard the soldiers break down their door and a lot of noise in the house below.  One German soldier went up the ladder and checked the roof but did not see them in the darkness, hiding under the blanket.  They waited until the noise was over and went back down to see the soldiers had wrecked their house.

His mother knew a neighbor who was a police officer but also a member of the Belgium underground and went to him for help. He smuggled the family to a Catholic convent. There his mother left the children.  Years later Goldsmith learned that she also joined the resistance, becoming a messenger.

His mother told him to do whatever he had to to survive, so although they were Orthodox, he ate non-kosher food.

“Only Mother Superior knew who we were,” he said.  Around Christmas time, his mother came because she’d learned that convent was about to be raided by the Nazis. So she took her children and warned the mother superior about the raid, possibly saving the lives of other Jewish children and the nuns who harbored them.

A gentile family took in Lillian and his mom sent Goldsmith to a Catholic boys’ orphanage. The priest in charge gave him a false baptismal certificate and changed his name.

“He figured it was too dangerous for me to stay there for too long, and he switched me to another orphanage that he ran.

“I continued being a good Catholic,” he said. “I went to church every day. And in the second orphanage, I even became an altar boy. I went to parochial school.”

But the Nazi soldiers raided that orphanage in May 1944.  They had all the boys undress and only the Jewish boys were circumcised.

After questioning, the boys were put on a freight train with other Jewish children. On their cattle car was a 16-year-old boy named Joseph who had hidden a metal rod in his boot.  He began prying off the wooden boards as the train rolled along.

Joseph told the boys they would need to jump when the train slowed down and that they should roll away from the tracks so they wouldn’t get hurt. Goldsmith was afraid to jump through the opening, but Joseph grabbed him and threw him off.  The boys found a place to hide but had no water or food. They were cut and bruised and their cuts began to get infected.

Joseph walked to a nearby village, went to the rectory, and asked a priest for help. The priest placed each boy with a Catholic family in the village.  A family hid Goldsmith in their attic and he could only come out at night “for some fresh air.”

Shortly before the war ended, his mother was injured by Allied bombs that struck the town of Namur.  She lost a leg and nearly bled to death.

“In the fall of 1944 we were liberated by the American soldiers,” he said. He found his mother and reunited with her through the Belgium Red Cross.

Before the war, an uncle had immigrated to America and through his auspices, Goldsmith and his mother and sister were able to come to America when the war ended.

That uncle, who served in the U.S. Army and sought out the family, was also able to retrieve Lillian because the family who she was living with refused to give her back to their mother.

Eventually, Goldsmith found records at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. that showed his father died at Auschwitz, gassed by the Nazis shortly after his arrival. He is still amazed that the Nazis kept such detailed records of their atrocities.

Once in the U.S., Goldsmith quickly learned English. He lived the American Dream, first in New York, then moving to the Delaware Valley in 1983 when his company transferred him to Horsham.

Goldsmith and his former wife, Susan, had three children, Tamar, Hy,and Ira, who died when he was in his 30s.  Goldsmith has four grandchildren.


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