Holocaust survivor tells his story

Daniel Gold is visiting Dunedin as part of a speaking tour sharing his experience of how he survived the Holocaust. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Daniel Gold is visiting Dunedin as part of a speaking tour sharing his experience of how he survived the Holocaust. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
A holocaust survivor visiting Dunedin hopes sharing his experience will help ensure the horrors he experienced are not repeated.

Daniel Gold, born in Lithuania in 1937 and now living in Israel, was in Dunedin yesterday as part of a speaking tour of New Zealand.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times before a speaking engagement at the University of Otago, Prof Gold, now in his late 70s, shared how he survived the Nazi occupation of Lithuania.

Being among a dwindling number of Holocaust survivors, he felt it was important to share his story to prevent such horrors being repeated.

Despite being only 4 when the Nazi occupation of Lithuania started in 1941, Prof Gold had a good memory of what went on during the occupation.

''In general, I would say that traumatic memories even remain with young children and I've had a few of them.''

Strangely, his first memory of a German officer was a positive one.

''My first memory of my encounter with the Germans was with a German officer ... and he was very friendly - he put me on his knee.''

Things deteriorated from there and his grandparents and mother were among the vast majority of Lithuanian Jews who did not survive World War 2.

His first major traumatic experience was of his family being kicked from their home and moved to a ghetto, but the day he remembers as being ''the most traumatic'' in his life was when all children at the ghetto were rounded up and taken away.

On the day, his mother, sensing something was wrong, hid him and some of his cousins in a cellar.

''It was still early morning and she closed the fold-door and put a rug over it and then a table over it and the Germans used Ukrainian co-operative soldiers to ... collect the children.

''We were in the cellar and over our heads we heard them rummaging and roaming about. We were all the time standing there entirely quiet, not even whispering because my mother had warned us that if they discovered us they would kill us.

''Later on when I was in Israel, I became an air force pilot and was very often shot at and I could see the bullets coming at me because they had tracers.

''It was scary, but it wasn't anything compared to the feeling I had in that cellar.''

In the summer of 1944, just before the liquidation of the ghetto, he escaped the camp with his aunt and uncle and three cousins.

They were to find refuge with a Lithuanian peasant family, living in cramped conditions under the floor until Lithuania was liberated by the Russians three and-a-half months later.

In 1946, he was reunited with his father, who survived the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

''We reached Munich central train station and when I exited the train station my father was there, waiting for me.''

He never found out how his mother died.

Holocaust survivor

I wish I'd known that Mr Gold was visiting Dunedin.  My Mother was a survivor.  She related many of her horrific experiences after being captured in the Ukraine, transported to Germany by train in a cattle wagon and forced to work in a labour camp.  I can relate to Mr Gold and am disappointed that I missed the opportunity to hear him speak.   

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