Holocaust survivor speaks at Blackhawk Tech

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Frank Schultz
Thursday, September 26, 2013

TOWN OF ROCK—They murdered Henry Golde's family when he was 11.

They sent Henry to a series of prison camps where he worked and starved until he was a skeleton.

Golde told a crowd of 70 at Blackhawk Technical College on Thursday that he found it in his heart to forgive, but not until he was well into his 50s.

Golde, 84, now from Appleton, survived the murder of 6 million Jews whom German Nazis and their allies killed during World War II.

He grew up in a Polish town of about 35,000—3,000 of them Jews. Only 50 of the Jews and none of his close or distant relatives survived the Nazis.

He was put on a truck and taken to his first concentration camp.

“I spent five years in the worst prisons that ever existed in this world,” Golde, 84, told the audience.

He backed up that statement with horrific tales of his experiences in nine concentration camps in his native Poland, Germany and Czechoslovakia, including the infamous Buchenwald.

Time and again, he escaped death that stared at him out of the eyes of German soldiers. Once, he lay down on a pile of dead bodies to avoid being trucked off to the forest to be shot. He survived a two-week death march from Germany to Czechoslovakia, where guards shot any of the starving prisoners who fell by the wayside.

“People were eating grass, and I understand some cannibalism was going on, but I didn't see it,” he said.

He survived typhoid fever, wretched filth, lice and starvation until the Russian army liberated him in 1945.

He was lucky to be in a group of survivor children sent to live in England after the war. That's where he married and had his first son. The family moved to New York City in 1952, and later to Pennsylvania, Ohio and then Wisconsin, where he once ran a tavern in Merrill.

Asked how he survived the camps, he said he didn't really know.

"You make up your own minds. I always felt that where there is life, there's hope,” he said. “I survived.”

Asked if his faith helped him, he said he doesn't think so.

“As a matter of fact, many times I would curse God. I asked if God was in heaven, how would he allow this to happen?”

After the war, he considered his survival and thought that there must be a higher being, he said.

Someone once told him he held a lot of hate in him. He rejected that thought at first, and then he thought he was entitled to some hate for what happened to him and his family.

Later he decided he could forgive, and he started loving again, he said.

“My whole outlook on life changed.”

Now, he believes the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.

"Hate is nothing,” he said. “Love is everything.”

Nevertheless, “People are still killing in the name of God,” he said. “If we're supposed to believe in one God, why do we hate each other so much?”

Golde said he speaks to young people in the hope they will learn what human beings are capable of doing to each other and learn from his story, and yet:

“As far as I'm concerned, another Holocaust can happen, at anytime, in any place in this world.”

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