By Georgiana Francisco | Correspondent
It was April 17, 1948 when Danny Goldsmith first saw the United States as he sailed into the New York harbor aboard a World War II Liberty ship that carried immigrants from Europe to the “promised land.” On Jan. 23, Goldsmith began celebrating the 71st anniversary of his arrival by recounting his escape from the Holocaust to a rapt audience of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students in St. Ann School, Lawrenceville.
A child survivor of the Holocaust, Goldsmith has spent decades raising awareness of that time in history, especially in view of those who claim it never happened. “You are looking at someone who can tell you, it did happen,” he said.
He and Allan Silverberg, chairman of the Committee for Holocaust Remembrance Education Committee of the Jewish War Veterans, U.S.A., were invited to speak to the students for a two-hour program that coincided with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jan. 27. The day was designated by the United Nations to commemorate the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War.
“You are the last generation to witness a survivor of the Holocaust,” Goldsmith said, as he recounted how the Nazis methodically eliminated the civil rights of the Jewish populace in his native Belgium, from disallowing them to teach, own businesses, hold professions, and eventually confiscating their property and possessions, in an attempt to eliminate all Jews from Europe.
Goldsmith shared his escaping the Nazis at age nine with his mother and younger sister. The family was not noticed hiding under a blanket on the roof of their home during a midnight raid. His mother immediately began searching for someone who would hide him and his sister, beginning a three-year journey from hiding place to hiding place, including an orphanage run by a Catholic priest who took him and a group of other boys to safety. His mother joined the Belgian resistance as a courier. His father had already been sent to a forced labor camp. Eventually, an uncle who had previously immigrated to the U.S. sponsored them to live in America.
Silverberg provided a slide presentation that explored the many ways that Adolf Hitler attempted to exterminate the Jewish population and others, strongly emphasizing the horrors that Goldsmith and his sister escaped. He also discussed the statistics that underline the atrocities that took place. “There are about 1.4 million people in the city of Philadelphia,” he said. “If you took all the people in that city and multiplied that number by four, you might understand the magnitude of what was happening in Germany during this time.”
The message to the students was clear: Don’t hate. Be tolerant of others and speak out when you see something that is not right. Millions perished due to the silence of so many people and nations during World War II.
“Don’t be a bystander, be an outstander,” Silverman advised the students. “If you see something bad happening or someone being bullied, speak out about it. Speak to your teachers, the clergy, and your parents. Do something about it so that this will be a better world for everybody."
St. Ann student Sofia Druson said the presentation “was inspiring. “The detail and thought they put into their presentation was not only educational but also touched an emotional chord,” she said.
Casey Shields, history teacher, summed up the program by saying, “History will always be important because we need to understand the past as it pertains to the future.
“Hopefully, in this way, we will learn not repeat such things as racism, antisemitism, prejudice and bigotry.
“As Catholics and as people, we have a duty to speak out against the hateful acts that continue to take place. I want the students to understand that we have to stand up for others, for what is right, and for what is good. I want my students to have that understanding so that they can make a difference in the world.”