Daniel Goldsmith, a Holocaust child survivor, spoke and presented a slide show of pictures from his childhood to students from the fourth to the eighth grade at Project Learn School in Mt. Airy.
The students had been studying World War II and reading “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” a work of historical fiction told from the perspective of a 9-year-old boy who lives next door to Auschwitz.
Goldsmith was 11 years old and living in Antwerp, Belgium, when his father was sent to a labor camp by the Nazis in 1942. When Goldsmith’s father said goodbye at the train station, he said to his son, “You’re the little man in the house now, and you have to take care of your mother and sister until I come back.”
“I told him I would,” Goldsmith said. “And really, this was the day that I lost my childhood.”
Later that year, when the street where the Goldsmith’s lived was raided by the Nazis, Goldsmith’s mother hid with her children on the roof of their home, then took the children to a convent to stay where it was safe. After hiding in a few different convents and orphanages, Goldsmith was captured by the Nazis and sent to prison.
He escaped transportation on a freight train by jumping with several other boys from the train as it slowed to take a sharp curve. After they hid in the woods for a few days, one of the older boys went to seek help from a local priest who helped them to find families to stay with. Goldsmith hid in a Catholic family’s attic for more than a year.
In the fall of 1944, the town where Goldsmith was living was liberated by American soldiers, and he was reunited with his mother and sister, but he learned from his mother that his father had died in the Auschwitz concentration camp.
“You are the last generation that will see a live Holocaust survivor,” Goldsmith told the students, encouraging them to be righteous people and to fight against evil and hatred. “I firmly believe if there was no hatred, the Holocaust would not have happened.”
After hearing Goldsmith’s story, PL student Dannan Murphy, 10, of Roxborough, said “it was amazing to see that he went through all that as a child.”
Another student, Dylan Allender, 12, of Fairmount, found the presentation “very emotional.”
“He went through more than anyone could experience in a lifetime,” Allender said. “Not everyone jumps from a moving train or hides and escapes from Nazis. It’s too much.”
Calling it an “amazing story,” student Sylvie Goldblatt, 11, of West Philadelphia, said, “It should be a book because it is so hard to imagine.” Fellow student Evan Spann, 13, of Northeast Philadelphia, said he was “surprised to learn that kids my age will be the last to meet Holocaust survivors.”
Lisa Pack, the Project Learn teacher who arranged the presentation, said, “It’s good to learn about the Holocaust so we can work toward acceptance and understanding of all people.”