|USFDC Home||| RSS|
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Chris Patti: Okay, todays date is July 29, 2010. This is our interview with survivor Manuel Goldberg. My name is Chris Patti. We are in Osprey, Florida, in the United States. The language is English, and the videographers are Jane Duncan and David Purnell.
Okay, Mr. Goldberg, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today, and for telling us your story.
Manuel Goldberg: Yeah.
CP: Well start off with the very basics. So, can I get your name at birth and can I have you spell that for us?
MG: Surely. My name is Manuel GoldbergManuel in French, of course. M-a-n-u-e-l. Never Manny! (CP laughs) Thats one of the problems. Goldberg, G-o-l-d-b-e-r-g. I was born in Paris, France, in 1940, on March 17. And, as I always point out to friends, when else would a French Jew be born but on St. Paddys Day? (CP laughs) Thats one of the lovely ironies of life. Anyway, what else would you like to know?
CP: Did you have any other names that you or your family went by during the period of the war?
MG: Yeah. When we were in Normandy, especially, we used the name Colbert, C-o-l-b-e-r-t, which is a very old and respected French name. Colbert was the finance minister ofI think Louis XIV; it might have beenno, Im sure it was XIV, not XVI. And he was an extremely bright fellow and did very well for Louis. So, it was a well-respected name. And, because our name was close to it, we just used it; fortunately, there were never any questions. How that worked outabout, you know, being asked for our papersI dont know. I was too young. But, as I said, Im sure thats one of the things that helped save our lives.
CP: Can you tell me a little bit about your family, your father and mother and brothers?
MG: Sure. My mother was originally from Ukraine. She and her family had moved to France after the Revolution in 1917. Between the pogroms and the Revolution where everybody, of course, was eager to kill Jews, they had to leave. They got to France and the family settled there because they had run out of money; so it was the classic story where everybody worked, they got enough money to send the oldest son to America, he got here, he got a job, and started saving money until he could get the next son over. Eventually, they got the whole family. By that time, my mother had met Mr. Right and, probably in order to escape from the family, had gotten married and decided to stay in France. Thats why we ended up in France. By 1938 or thirty-nine , when they were talking about getting out of France, it was too late. It was not possible to leave. So, we were stuck there during the war.
My father was Polish; he was born in Poland; also came to France for more or less the same reasons: the terrible anti-Semitism. Plus, he and his family were involved in some of the more radical workers movements, and there was tremendous repression there. So, he got out of there. They met in France and they fell in love, got married, really had no plans to leave France.
So, it was interesting language-wise in the home. They spoke probably primarily Yiddish at home, and occasionally, when they didnt wantI have an older brother, whos technically a half-brother, from my mothers first marriage. Her first husband died, but she had a son by that marriage. And thats Charles, the one whos in France now. And whenever they didnt want him to understand what they were talking about, they would speak in Russian and Polish, because they could understand each other. That worked out for a while, except he very quickly started picking up Russian. Hes a fantastic linguist. Anywayand of course, they all spoke French. Now, because when I was born, by the time I was starting to really learn language, we didnt dare speak Yiddish because it was dangerous. The Germans would have picked us up right away.
CP: So, you understood that, even at that kind of young age, that you probably shouldnt be speaking Yiddish?
MG: No, it just wasnt there. Basically, we just spoke French. So, that was the only language I heard until we got back to Paris after the war.
CP: And can you tell me your mother and fathers names?
MG: Yes. My mothers name was Mania, M-a-n-i-a, I guess. In French it was Madeleine. And my fathers name was Maurice, or Mozcek in Polish.
CP: And your mothers maiden name, just for the historical record, was?
MG: Maniayou mean her maiden name?
MG: It was Bershadski.
MG: Thats correct.
CP: Okay. Excellent. And can you told meyou told me a little bit about your older brother. Can you tell me a little more about him, and also your twin brother?
MG: Yeah. He was born in 1930, I guess. Very bright kid, but(phone rings)he suffered in a way much more than my twin brother and I did during the war.
CP: Yeah, Im actuallycan we wait a little bit to get into those stories about your brothers experience during the war?
CP: But yeah, well definitely talk about that. Its interesting.
MG: He did a variety of different jobs in France. He really wanted to study some kind of engineering, but we didnt have the money; he needed to work. He couldnt work and study at the same time, because his working hours were just too long. So, he really didnt, even though he had some periods of apprenticeship in some machine trades, some kind of machinist, and I dont remember that too well. Then he worked in aI remember one store where he worked in a jacquardits like a knitting-type factory, with fancy patterns.
And one day, one of the machines broke: one of the parts of the machine broke, a machine that would take a couple of weeks to get the part, and he asked the owner if he could have two days off, if he could take the part and have two days off. And the owner said, Well, sure; were all going to be out of work soon anyway. So, he said, Well, Ill be back in two days. And he went to the machine shop where he had worked, and he actually made a new part for the machine using the old one, and came back and said, Try this one. The guy was amazed, and he immediately put him in a much higher position in the factory.
So, he just not only was very bright, but he was excellent in using his hands at all kinds of things. And after we came to the United States, he was some kind of deliveryman, but also he started taking courses at what was then the RCA Institute, in radio and TV repair, and also audio equipment repair. And then, because of that background, when he was drafted into the Army, which was during the Korean War, they sent him to Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, which was the Army communications center, and there he learned how to becomehe eventually became professionally a recording engineer. And he was sent over to Germany instead of Korea, which was wonderful.
He said it was great, because the Armys Signal Corps headquarters was in a lovely castle. There was one floor just complete with all kinds of wonderful equipment for him to play withto work at, you know; for him it was play. And then, the upper floor, very nice rooms for them, and there was a billiards room and so on. So, he said it was really wonderful, and then he managed to get his car and his wife shipped over and they were able to live off base. And every weekend theyd get in the carhis wife was French. Theyd get in the car and go over to France to visit relatives and friends in Paris and then, you know, Sunday drive back and enjoy his work.
So, he really learned his trade in the Army. When he came back, he became a recording engineer, worked for a studio which did primarily jazz, rock and roll, and so on, and worked very closely with a lot of the greats: Oscar Peterson andoh, I forget his name; hes got a doctorate in music, too. And some of theTito Puente and things like that. Recording them, doing their recordings and so on, which is what he continued doing after, when he went back to France, working with studios. I was visiting him in 1962, and he was recording an orchestra. Im trying to remember the guys name; it was one of the last of the famous Russian composers. And I said, Oh, my God! I was very, very impressed, having been a music major in high school. So, thats what I can tell you about him.
CP: Can you tell me aboutwhat was his name again?
MG: Charles. Charles, you know.
CP: And can you tell me about your twin brother?
MG: Yeah, my twin brother, Michel, M-i-c-h-e-l. Michel and I were, as my mother said when we were younger, Whenever youre together, youre beating each other up; when I pull you apart, youre crying for each other. So, it was that kind of a typical boys love/hate relationship. He and I very early showed talent in the arts, he in the graphic arts and I in music. And then, when it was time to go to high school, we applied to the High School of Music and Art in New York. I dont know if youre familiar with that school, but it not only has very high academic standards, but you get in by audition or, for artists, bring your portfolio. And then you actually have a test of your artistic or musical skills. And we both were accepted, I in music and he in art.
He continued with his artwork: he went to Pratt Institute, got his degree from there, and became a graphic artist and went on to do all kinds of large exhibits, designing exhibits, including for various museums. He did one for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the MoMA. They had an exhibit of some of I.M. Peis works; he did that. And as he got older, he got more and more into the pure art, if you will, in terms of painting and also sculpture. Recently hes had some major exhibits of those works. Hes pretty much fully retired now, as far as the work work, the graphic arts and design, but he is making quite a name for himself as a painter and a sculptor.
CP: You have a talented family, talented siblings.
MG: Yes, apparently we were. I think my talent now comes out mostly in my breads, and youve seen some of the pictures. Theyre moreI go for the artistic aspect as well as flavor and texture.
CP: Do you think that thats related to your French upbringing, the bread?
MG: Oh, definitely, the bread, definitely. If youre French, you eat bread all the time, fresh breadand fresh French bread, of course. When we first moved to New York, we had no problem getting good bread, because you have all kinds of interesting bakeries in New York: you have French, Italian, Polish, Jewish breads. So, it was wonderful. But once I moved out of New York, I saidthere was one bakery, and their bread was okay, and they went out of business very shortly after we moved out of there. And I said, Well, damn, I can cook almost anything; no reason I cant learn to bake bread. So, I started working at it. It probably took me two years until I could make bread that I was satisfied with. I have to admit, I owe a lot of it to Julia Child, who had this very daunting thirty-five page section on breads, including the chemistry and the physics of bread. I said, Ah! Thats the problem. Thats what I havent been doing! And thats when I started making decent bread, and Ive worked at it ever since. So, that was probably the early seventies [1970s]. I guess Ive been baking bread now for almost forty years.
MG: Yeah, Im impressed. You dont realize how it justyou know, you just do it.
CP: It becomes a life.
MG: Yeah. I mean, it justand it develops on its own.
CP: Going back to some of your roots, you mentioned that your father was a bit of a social radical and that your parents, you told me before, they were atheists and they were pretty socialist. You were very culturallystill culturally Jewish. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
MG: Yeah. My mother actually came from a very Orthodox Jewish family. I know that her father was quite the patriarch, and pretty severe. I think she may have rebelled against that, and probably found no use for religion. And then, when she met my father, it kind of confirmed those beliefs. So, I was brought up as being very Jewish in the sense that we are Jewish. I am Jewish. You know, with a name like Goldberg, what else could I be?
CP: Can youI totally get what youre saying, but could you explain to me a little bit more? What does it mean to be Jewish?
MG: Well, its a very cultural thing for me. Im of the Yiddish school in that I went to a Yiddish school, where we learned to read and write Yiddish, learned about Jewish cultureJewish holidays, too. So, we learned about the religion from a non-religious point of view, if you will. You know, its very much part of me. I was onceI remember having a discussion with somebody once, and I said something about being an atheist, not believing in God, and he says, Well, if you dont believe in God, you cant be Jewish. And I said, What the hell you mean Im not Jewish? Of course Im Jewish! If you dont believe me, look what happened to my father and six million others. But I was so offended, you know. Its like questioning my core. Its amazing.
CP: Yeah, I find that very interesting. So, can you take me back to the beginning? Whats maybe your first childhood memory that you can think of, or some time? Do you remember Paris? Do you remember moving to Normandy?
MG: No. I was probably aboutnot even two years old at the time. No, I was probablyit was probably closer to maybe eighteen, twenty months. So, I dont remember that. I just remembermy first memories are of Normandy, living in a very small stone house, dirt floor, and a fireplace, no indoor plumbing. I cant remember if we had a well or if we actually had to go to the stream for water. We may have had a well, I just dont remember. I do remember there was an outhouse, and thats where you went at night.
As a matter of fact, the funny part was, for some reason, my twin brother and my older brother were afraid of the dark, and when it was time to go to the bathroom before you went to bedhere I was, and I was the runt of the family. I was a sickly little runt. My brother used to beat me upmy twin brother used to beat me up all the time, and, of course, my older brother. Actually, he was almost like a father figure, because he was the only older male around. And so, I would take my twin brother by the hand and my older brother by the hand. Come on guys, lets go. Time to pee. (both laugh) I wasnt afraid of the dark, and they were. And other than that, I was the runt.
CP: You said you were sickly. What caused that? What was that?
MG: I dont know. I know that I was. And when we came back to Paris, if there was any sickness to get, I got it first, whether it was mumps or measles or chicken pox, all of which I think we had. And there wasit had to do with a program for poor kids, where they would send you to live on a farm for the summer. You know, so you got healthy outdoor living and all that and good farm food.
Well, my brother ended upand they never put us together; we were in separate places. Well, he went to a farm where they were wonderful people, and they just fed him and loved him and all that. I was in a farm where they were bastards! They were cheap as dirt. My job was toId get up in the morning; you knowyoud get up at daybreak. Sun is up, youre up. And Id have this miserable breakfast, and theyd give me a piece of bread to stick in my shirt, and Id take the cows out to the pasture and Id be out there with the cows, and I had the dog with me. Oh, Id be out there all day, and when the sun was high enough Id eat my piece of bread, drink some water, and then Id come home and theyd feed me whatever they were making, but not enough.
And when I got back to the city at the end of the summer, I was so undernourished they were afraid I had tuberculosis. They sent me to get a chest x-ray, and fortunately, I didnt have TB. But my mother started fattening me up, because I had actually lost weight instead of getting bigger and heavier and stronger. So, that was my luck, anyway. And then, when I hit thirteen and I guess the hormones started kicking in, all of a sudden I started sprouting in all directions and getting muscles, and started beating up my own brother. (both laugh) You know, so I went from being the runt of the family to the tallest one and the strongest onewhich was fine with me, of course. So, that answers that question.
CP: Do you have any other memories of that time, the early times in Normandy?
MG: Oh, yeah, a lot. And thats interesting. My twin brother has just about no memories of Normandy. When we get back to France, I have very few memories of schoolsome, but very fewand he had many. So, I guess he suppressed the Normandy part, which I must have liked because I didnt suppress it, and then when we get back to school I must have liked school more than he did, although he was a good student, and I was still getting in trouble cause I couldnt keep my mouth shut. We were talking about that in a French group, how when youre in school if youre bad, you put your hand out like that, and the ruler comes down whap right on top of your fingers, and usually on your right hand. And then you have to write a hundred lines I must not talk in class, and your fingers are killing you. Anyway, it was lovely in those days. Theyre not allowed to do that anymore.
But Normandyyeah, I actually had some good memories of Normandy. I told you about in the fallNormandy is apple country. You dont drink wine, you drink ciderwhat you all call hard cider; they just called it cider, cause you dont drink non-alcoholic cider there. Thats apple juice. Anyway, so in the fall they gather the apples, and they have these huge presses, and they press the apples and theres like this big wooden truss leading to these gigantic barrels to makethe apple juice flows down the truss into the barrels. So, we were kids. We would get a strawa real straw, not the plastic stuffand wed just stick it into the trough and drink the apple juice. It was delicious. Well, you drink enough apple juiceoh, boy, did we have diarrhea. (both laugh) But it was a great memory. For some reason, I never remember the diarrhea. My mother told me about it. I remember enjoying the apple juice.
CP: There you go.
MG: And also, the picture of the gigantic press and the truss. And that was really very happy. Other memoriesI remember my mother getting dinner ready. She sent me down to the stream to pick watercress, so wed have a nice salad, a watercress saladwhich not only was delicious; it was healthy for us, too. So, those were some of the happy memories.
CP: It seems like you also, from talking before, that you remember that transition when things were starting to change in Normandy. There were the planes and that sort of stuff.
MG: Yeah. But just before we finish, one funny memory: We had rabbits that was one of thewe had chickens and rabbits. And whenever it was time, youd grab one of them and youd slaughter it and youd have it for dinnerseveral dinners. So, my mother decided it was time to get a rabbit. She gets the rabbit, puts it on the table, gives it a bop over the head, starts sharpening her knife to clean and dress him. Well, she didnt hit him quite hard enough. The rabbit wakes up and jumps off the table. And heres my mother running around the table, chasing the rabbit. She finally got it and caught it and gave it a hard enough bop and slaughtered it, and we enjoyed it. But that picture! We all had such good laughs over it afterwards. So, that was life in Normandy.
CP: Did you have any idea at this time of whatthe political turmoil that was going on in the world?
MG: Yeah. Not in that sense, but we knew to be scared of the Germans, because of the way everybody spoke about them and how they acted whenever they were around. So, we knew that when les Boches came, you just behaved and kept a very low profile. We learned that right away.
My older brother, of course, had some horrible experiences along that line. He worked in a drugstore, I guess, a pharmacy a couple towns away. He was coming home one day, and he was taking like a shortcut, a small path. As he was walking along the path, all of a sudden a very drunk German soldier with a bunch of dead chickens on his arm, which he had probably just stolen from a local farm, asked himhe was crossing one of the big roads. He said, Wheres a shortcut to such-and-such a place? At first, my brother acted like he didnt know what he was talking about. He just pointed to the regular road. And he said the guy just took out his gun, stuck it in his forehead, and said, Wheres the shortcut? And he said, I had no choice but to tell him where it was. You know, he came home and he was just a mess. He said, He was ready to shoot me. So, he really had some horrible experiences.
And then, after the invasionand we were only about, I think maybe five or six miles from the beaches. So, we could hear the bombardments very loudly. And as they got closer, then there was a lot of bombardments. We would immediately hide under the table or under the bed, and we could feel the ground shaking. We were lucky that our house was never hit.
CP: You told me a story about a specific memory of being in the field with the ground shaking. Could you tell me that story?
MG: Oh, yeah. That wasnt the ground shaking. What happened was we were coming back from town; town was maybe one or one and a half kilometers away. We were coming through a field, and we heard planes, and then we heard the planes starting to dive. And there was like a little lean-to, just a corrugated sheet, a tin sheet on two sticks, and it was a beautiful, bright, sunny day. There were three of us: my older brother, myself, and a local farmer. And the farmer said, Quick, lets get under the lean-to, and my brother said, No, lets just lie down right here, which we did. And you heard the machine guns, and you looked at the lean-to, and you saw shafts of sunlight coming through it. And thats how close it was.
MG: If they saw something move, they fired. The Americans were at least as bad as the Germans.
CP: So, theres a reasonable chance that if you had gone into that lean-to, you might not be here today.
MG: I would say theres a 99 percent chance.
CP: Oh, my God.
CP: Its amazing how vividly you can still see that picture.
MG: Yeah. And when I visited my brother in sixty-two , when we went back there and we went through the town, he was amazed that I pointed to a spot and said, There used to be a building there, and you used to work there. It was like a cabinet-makers shop. And he said, Yes, there was. And then I told him that story, and he had forgotten that and said, Youre right. Now I remember it. He had other, more horrible stories he remembered, but I didnt. I either didnt experience or didnt remember.
CP: Since were talking about your brother, would you share some more of his experience and some of those stories of his?
MG: He and two cousins were walking. They were coming back from some town, not far. And they were passing by one of the bigger roads. They heard planes and machine gun fire, and so they came close tothey saw smoke. They came close to the road. Obviously, there was a German convoy, which was filled with Belgian prisoners. They had been hit. And he said they heard all kinds of screaming, and they could see the bodies burning. And then there was one body that was burning: the head came off, and it was a burning, rolling head, rolling towards them. It justyou know, to this day, he cannot stand the smell of the barbecue and burning flesh. He says those visions are still with him.
CP: You mentioned that the emotion of talking about these things has started to become more acute as youve gotten older.
MG: Yep. Mm-hmm.
CP: Can you explain? What do you think thats all about?
MG: I dont know. I find that, as I get older, Im more and more emotional about everything. You know, like about a year and a half ago, my son and daughter-in-law were coming down here to visit. We went to the airport to pick them up, and the first thing they said was that shes pregnant. And I started crying; its just the way I am now, with joy. But I justyou know, I cant stop the tears from flowing lately. I really dont know why. Maybe I can find a psychologist who can answer this for me. But
CP: Did you talk about your experiences during the Holocaust, your familys experiences, at any point in your life? Or is that more recent, as well?
MG: My mother talked about it, and my brother also talked it about fairly easily. I dont think Michel and I talked about it much, probably because he had so few memories. Like, I remember one experience. We were back in Paristhis was after the warand I may have mentioned this to you. One of my mothers friends, who was also Jewish and had been in the underground, came to visit. I remember her as a big, big strong woman. She told us how she had been caught by the Germans, and they were trying to get information from her. She said, I knew that if I gave them the information, I was dead. No question about it. Theyd have no more use for me. Im Jewish, Im in the underground; theyd shoot me right away. So, she was not gonna tell them.
So, first they put her naked in a freezer, and kept her there for I dont know how long, and she had a lot of lung problems as a result of it. I mean, when I knew her. And then, afterwards, they continued interrogating her, and they started ripping out her toenails. And I didnt believe her. I said, No, they cant do that. So, she took off her shoes and showed me. She had no toenails. I remember being horrified. And thats what it was like.
CP: What do you do with memories of that kind ofI guess we, as a culture, we all have to deal with the fact that humans did this to humans. But its pretty personal for you and your family. How do you deal with that?
MG: Frankly, Im not sure. Mostly, you try to live your life and do the best you can. Every once in a while, you become very much aware of the rageand its rage, no question about it.
When my wife and I were living in Hackettstown, New Jersey, which is in the northwestern part of the state, she was working at a local newspaper. There was a local neo-Nazi who hadI think he was arrested for something; I dont know whatand they talked about whether she should go and interview him. And it ended up with she didnt. But I remember thinking, Ill interview him, and I hope he tells me that its a good thing my father was killed, because then Ill beat the shit out of him. And it would have been more than that, you know. I mean, it just feels murderous, the need for revenge. Theresyou dont forget and you dont forgive, never.
CP: Youve spoken with a number of survivors yourself, as an interviewer, correct?
CP: What was that experience like?
MG: Not directly. I had a job where I was working at the New York Association for New Americans, in New York. Basically, they were helpingonce immigrants, Jewish immigrants, from everywhere came to the United States, we helped them with both social and vocational issues. I was working there as a vocational counselor. And we also helped them find jobs in our social department. I would also help them with education, because that was considered related to the vocational aspect. And I got to meet some of the older ones who had been in camps: theyd have the number on their arm. And I would always ask them what camp they were in, and if they had been in Auschwitz, I would ask them if they knew my father. Never, unfortunately, none of them ever did, becauseI mentioned before my father was murdered in Auschwitz.
CP: Well, well come back to the kind of later time. But since you brought up your father, could you tell me his story, then, during the Holocaust?
MG: Yeah. He had been in the French Army, and he actually had joined up in thirty-nine , I guess, when France was attacked. And within a short time, of course, he was discharged, like the rest of them, after France was vanquished. He was actually home, and we were able to live together as a family for a while. But then, in 1941, somebody had murderedor assassinated, if you willa German officer. Somebody from the underground had, in Paris. So, the Germans told the French police to round up five thousand men. Unfortunately, my father happened to be on the street when they were doing the roundups.
As soon as they found outwell, they were all sent to Drancy, which was a French detention camp. But there were two parts: one was for Jews and one was for non-Jews. The Jewish part was actually like a pre-concentration camp, and they would have the selections. He ended up being on one of the trains and sent to Auschwitz, where he was eventually murdered. So, the last time I saw him, I was probably eighteen, seventeen months old, and thats why I really have no memory of him, other than what my mother and brother have told me about him, and a few pictures. Thats unfortunately about all I can tell you.
CP: Yeah. The first time we talked, I remember thinking that youyou said very specifically and powerfully that he was murdered in Auschwitz. And that kind of links back toone of the things Ive read in researching Holocaust narratives is something that we dont like to hear when we study the Holocaust in America are things that go against our notions of morality. And so, I appreciate that you do say it pointedly. He was murdered, and you do talk about the rage and the need for revenge. I think thats something that we need to hear about.
MG: When you take good, innocent men, women and children and you shove them in gas ovens, its murder. When you shoot them for no reason at all, its murder. If you go out in the street here and you go up to somebody and shoot him because you dont like the color of their skin or their nose or their name, its murder. And when you do it to six million people, its atrocious murder. How could you not have rage?
And if people are shocked hearing me say that, then they need to be shocked. They need to hear this. They need to know about mans inhumanity to man. They deprived me of my father, and a whole bunch of other relatives. They horribly damaged my mother: her health, her emotional health. She had already been through a revolution and a war, and then this on top of it.
CP: How would you say that it shaped her life? Thats a pretty broad question.
MG: I think the most horrible damage it did is that she gave up, and she only lived to provide for her children. She gave up on her own life, and she became a very bitter woman. And this was a woman who was very, very bright, talented, probably with half a chance could have an excellent education, have benefited from an excellent education, and made something of herself. She was a very warm, lively person. Evenshe only had four years of formal schooling, and yet, she could read Cyrillic, Roman alphabet, and the Hebrew alphabet. She spoke five different languages. Initially, she spoke Ukrainian, Russian, and Yiddish, because in Ukraine they spoke Ukrainian but they had to learn Russian, cause they were under the Russian tsar. Yiddish was the language at home. And then she came to France, she learned French. She came to the United States, she learned English. So, she was fluent in five languages, and that takes quite a bit of brains to start with. She read; she loved opera and music. She could have had a wonderful life, given half a chance, and it was ripped away from her.
CP: Well, thank God she seems to have instilled that in her children, and all of those talents were passed on to the next generation.
MG: She did.
CP: How would you say its affected you and your brothers lives, shaped you and your brothers lives?
MG: The war, you mean?
MG: In my older brothers case, he was robbed of a childhood and young adulthoodyou know, teenage years. He didnt have to get the education he could have benefited from. Again, a very bright guy, ended up doing quite well in spite of those deficits, which points out just how much he had going for him. And also, it affected him emotionally. He was alwayshe lacked a certain social assertiveness, both socially and in business. It was so obvious. He said when he got back to Paris and he started being with other young people, he just didnt know what to do and he felt, you know, afraid of everything, practically. It affected him in terms of social interaction, in terms of girlfriends, and he made a couple of bad choices. So, yeah, it had a tremendous effect on him. In addition to which, I was robbed of a proper father figure and role model, as were both my brothers, I guess. So, we had a lot to make up for, and that weve turned out as well as we have, all three of us, is, I think, impressive, actually. Really, when you stop and think about it, could I have been much more? Yes, Im sure I could have. But I think I did well, under the circumstances.
I remember a friend of mine; he and I happen to have the same therapist. One day, and thats when I was still working on my doctorate and had had a major setback with the cancer, heI dont know how he and the therapist started talking about me, but he was bitching about me, saying, Whats wrong with him? Why doesnt he do more for himself? Why doesnt he accomplish more? And the therapist looked at him and said, Look how much he has accomplished, under the circumstances. And my friend told me about the conversation, and I was surprised. I said, Well, how come the sonofabitch never said that to me? He always pointed out what I havent done. AnywayI just realized, by the way, with the new Supreme Court decision, you wont have to blip all my terrible words.
CP: Oh, yeah, yeah. No, this is history; thats all good.
MG: Oh, okay. Well, its history.
CP: Yeah, you can say whatever the hell you want, Ill put it that way. (both laugh)
CP: Well, I have to ask this, and I think Ive asked you this question two times, because your profession, as a psychologist, to me Im always making this link, thinking that it must be connected to your experiences as a young person. Maybe thats a Freudian link to make, or something. How do youyou said you dont really see it that way; you just happened to kind of go into that path.
MG: Yeah, I really havent figured out any real link to that.
CP: Through all the learning about psychology and stuff, did that shape your thinking about your experience, would you say?
MG: I dont think so. I think theyre much more from the gut. For one thing, the experience, the impact of the experiences, precedes any brain work.
CP: So, any symbolic sense, all that comes after the hit of it?
MG: Oh, yeah. And all the stuff Ive read may have helped me understand some of my reactions. It hasnt modified them. You know, its like I understand that I may bemay have a filterable Epstein-Barr virus thats causing such and such and blah-blah-blah. The bottom line is, I still got a miserable cold, and Im miserable. That kind of a thing. So, yeah, I understand why I feel this way. I still want to kill the bastards. Its that kind of a thing, and very, very real and very, very strong, even though I may be making light of it at the moment.
CP: Is there anything else? On my list, I have kind of liberation and post-war, sowe have five minutes? Okay. Maybe now is a good time to stop, and we can take a break and then talk about the last couple things.
MG: Okay. Sure.
CP: All right, this is tape two with our interview with Manuel Goldberg. Mr. Goldberg, when we left off, we had pretty much talked about all the stuff that we remembered happening through the war. The last thing we have left is liberation. So, can you tell me that story?
MG: Yeah. They came through, and they were veryas I mentioned before, we were very close to one of the main roads, which had its goods points and bad points. The bad points was there was an awful lot of bombing going on, and we were, as I said, very close, so we would dive under the beds and feel the earth shaking and were scared shitless, probably. The good part was we saw the American army go by, and it was endless convoys and troops.
Now, my mother was comfortable with blacks cause she had seen quite a few of them in Paris, so it was no big thing for her. The local peasantsand I should have talked more about local peasants, by the way. They were good Normandy peasants: very Catholic, very little education, still in the twelfth century. They didnt want to believe that we were Jews, because we did not have horns, we did not have tails, and we looked like normal people, we worked like normal people. So, they really figured, Well, maybe they are Jews; they say they are, and why would they say theyre Jews if theyre not? But we didnt fit the image. And when I talk about horns and tails, Im talking about literally. They really literally believed that Jews had horns and tails, cause thats what they had heard all their lives. Anyway, they had never seen blacks before, and they were scared.
Another big problem, of course, was nobody spoke English. We didnt speak English, and certainly the peasants wouldnt have. But I remember seeing these twelve-foot-tall guysremember, I was the runt, too, we were small to begin with. And they were all very friendly and smiling all the time, and they, of course, loved little kids. Wed go up, and they wore these fatigues, the old-style fatigue pants with the big patch pockets on the side, and wed go up and wed bang on the pockets, and theyd go into their pockets and pull out candy bars and Tootsie Rolls or whatever candy they had and give them to us. We were thrilled.
Anyway, one of the big problems we had, though, was food. We never had enough food. And one day, my brother finds this big canit turned out to be a five-gallon canof something he knew was food. Opened it up, and here is this kind of light brown greasy looking stuff, had no idea what it was, because we didnt read English, so we had no idea what peanut butter meant. You know peanut butter? (CP laughs) Thats what it sounds like when you read French. So, they tasted it; it tasted terrible. They tried frying it; didnt work. Boiling it; didnt work. You name it, we tried it. Finally, we ended up having to very reluctantly throw out a five-gallon can of peanut butter. It was inedible, to the French taste. Of course, I suppose some Americans would have said pt is inedible. Anyway
CP: And you also told me that still, to this day, youre not a fan of peanut butter.
MG: Well, Im very slowly starting to accept it. I mean, I love to make a nice Thai peanut sauce, and thats really delicious and its peanut-based. And then, because Rachel loves them, I have started making peanut butter cookies. I find, Hey, theyre not bad. They taste a little bit like peanut butter, but basically theyre not bad. So, those disappear pretty quickly. But peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? Not for me. No, thank you.
CP: So, what happened after that point, after the Americans came in? Normandy was one of the first places to
MG: Right, to be liberated. Well, life continued pretty much as before, until after Paris was liberated. My mother decidedmy mother and brother decided to go there and see what was happening. They left us with some local family, who we knew and we knew would take good care of us. I should mention the local family who owned the farm we were staying at were absolutely wonderful. They saved our lives. We were very, very close to them. They had a daughter who was maybe a little older than my brother, my older brother. She was our big sister. Obviously, she adored us. We went back to visit themI went back to visit with my brother, when I visited him in sixty-two . It was very much homecoming.
Anyway, so they went back to Paris, my mother and brother did, found the apartment, which our landlord had kept for us for some reason, and I dont know the details. The apartment had been broken into by the Germans, completely ransacked: all the books were lying on the floor torn up, and so on. We found out they camethey broke the door down two weeks after we left, to get us. So, again, a close call. Anyway, my mother was able to find that she could get employment, came backor they came back, and got us, brought us back. I think initially, we were staying at some relatives apartment while they were trying to clean up the place. Excuse me. And then, we moved back to the apartment. My mother was working, my brother found some kind of apprenticeship job, and my twin brother and I started school. And life was relatively normal, until my mothers family in the United States was able to have us brought over, which took quite a while because I guess there was a backlog and all kinds of red tape and paperwork. So, we didnt get here until December 1948. So, I guess we spent abouta good three-plus years in Paris.
CP: What do you remember when you ended up getting to the United States? So, you were eight at that time.
MG: Right. Eight, almost nine. Several things: We came across on the De Grasse, which was one of the French line boats, and it was like a fairy tale to us. It was, to us, a gorgeous boat. It waseven though it was the oldest and least luxurious one of that line. It was, I think, a nine or ten-day trip, very rough seas, in December. I remember where they had a chain across the front deck, because there were sixty-foot waves crashing on the deck, so you werent allowed to go there, obviously. And I was the only one who didnt miss any meals, in spite of seasickness. I was very proud of that, cause I was still the runt, remember.
It was very luxurious. They would playthere was an orchestra that played every evening, and they played La vie en rose to death. I remember there was a big staircase leading to, I guess, the dance floor and dining room, and there waswhat do you call that? Theres like a young boy whos working on the ship; in French its called un musse. Not a purser, but anyway, hes like an apprentice, something like that. And he was always trying to be really brave, and one day, I see him kind of leaning on the railing, looking kind of green, and I say, Feeling a little sick? No, no, Im all right. But as I said, it was the most wonderful vacation. I had never been on anything that luxurious.
And then, getting to New York Harbor in early morning and seeing the Statue of Liberty in the fog! Very emotional, because everything youve heard about itit really is incredibly emotional, especially there is in the fog, you know, rising out. And then we got here, and of course it was total bedlam. We didnt speak a word of English. Nobody spoke French. But somehow, we managed to get to my grandparents apartment.
We were living with my grandparents and my aunt, and that was difficult, because my mother could communicate with them fluently in Yiddish, my brother, my older brother, could communicate them probably with broken Yiddish, but enough to communicate pretty well. Michel and I did not know any Yiddish, cause wed never had a chance to learn. At home, we spoke French. And thats when we started learning Yiddish, because it was the only common languageand learning Yiddish and English at the same time.
And within a few months, they had us enrolled in public school, and we were lucky that there was one teacher who spoke some French. So, they put us in her class, which I think was fourth grade. We may have been a grade below what we should have been, because of the lack of English, and the fact that she spoke some French. But I remember being shocked that the kids were just learning simple arithmetic, and we already knew long division and stuff like that, and multiplication tables. But English was a problem. My poor brother, who somehow managed to have more problem with English than I did, one day he went up to the teacher and he said, May I have a shit of paper? And she said, No, no, no, not like that. She corrected him, Thats a sheet of paper. Unfortunately, he had trouble with the long and short E, and made the same mistake again, and she wasnt as kind about it the second time.
Anyway, but we caught up quickly. Socializing was difficult, at first, and kids would pick on uswell, because we didnt speak English, and we talked funny, and were called Frenchy and kind of silly stuff like that. But that didnt last too long. We were young enough that we were able to not have too much of an accent in English for very long, although in high school they made both Michel and me take speech class. There was one English teacher who was very British, Dr. MacLeod, and he said to Michel, Michel, I know your French accent is devilish with the young ladies, but you must get rid of it. But it was devilish with the young ladies! (both laugh)
Anyway, so that was life after we got here. I went to City College in New York, and they had a lot of foreigners there. So, of course, we had a small group of French students, or French-speaking, so we had our little clique and the Estonians had their little clique, and so and so on. And it was nice. For one thing, I took French as a foreign language in junior high and in high school and in college, primarilywell, obviously it was easy for me, but also, you know, I was not even nine years old when I left France, so I still had a lot of French to learn: grammar, et cetera, spelling, vocabulary. So, I felt it was important, because I didnt want to lose my French. My family strongly supported that; they didnt want us to lose our French. I mean, its part of my culture.
I really have three different cultures. Im French, Im Jewish, and Im American. And when I go to France, I realize how American I am, not just in my beliefs but alsoI mean, you see somebody walking on the street in France, if theyre American you can tell just by watching them walk. And your thinking is different here. We think differently. It is freer, in a way. France still has a very bureaucratic mentality in everything, and everything has seven different forms in triplicate, and you get to stamp here and stamp there.
I remember going to the French Consulate forthe first time I wanted to go back to France. I figured, well, here I amI was what, twenty-two? The Algerian War was still going on. Im still considered a French citizen by France, even though Im a naturalized American citizen. Id better have a French passport and a letter of deferment, cause I didnt want to come off the plane and be greeted by two gentlemen in uniform saying, We have a free uniform for you, and a free trip to Algeria. So, I went there, and no problem. Theres a very officious guy, and he is filling out this form, and hes very carefully writing everythingbeautiful handwriting. And hes stamping it and hes stamping that, and finally I get this very fancy looking passport, which I still have, you know, with my picture and everything in it. Its kind of fun.
CP: Was there anything else that youd like to talk about, or anything that we didnt cover?
MG: Weve covered a lot of things. Ive talked about how important it is to have a history of this, to know how its affected people, good people, and how important it is for the world to know about it, especially the younger generation. Its extremely important to fight the Holocaust deniers. And, hopefully, this can make a better world, Ill be happy. I want to thank you and your crew for doing this. I think its so important.
CP: Well, thank you very much. Its an honor to do this talk with you and to work with everyone else. Thank you very much. Its been a pleasure.
MG: Youre very welcome.
CP: Thank you.
CP: Okay, well, we remembered one other point, a very important point.
MG: Yes, how we got to Normandy. My uncle, my mothers brother, who had traveled more in Franceincluding working in Normandyhad met a woman there, fallen in love, and gotten married. She was a Christian. They came back to Paris, and she and my mother became good friends. Unfortunately, and I hate to mention this, but the reality is that my family looked down on her because she wasnt Jewish. My mother, fortunately, was not prejudiced, and as I said, they became good friends. As things got worse in Paris, she said to my mother, Madeleine, you have to get out of here. Heres an address to go to in Normandy. They will take care of you. Take the kids and go, now. So, my mother just packed up a couple of suitcases and the four of usmy mother with one of us in her arms and my older brother with one of us in his armsgot on the train, the bus, and whatever else, and went out to Normandy. And these people took care of us. They were Righteous Gentiles, and they saved our lives. Its very important for people to know about people like that.
CP: Well, thank you very much.
MG: Youre welcome.
CP: Im glad we got to share that.
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 standalone no
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd
leader cim 2200541Ia 4500
controlfield tag 001 026080960
006 m u
007 sz zunnnnnzned
008 110124s2010 flunnnn od t n eng d
datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a F60-00034
Manuel Goldberg oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Chris Patti.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (72 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (22 p.)
Holocaust survivors oral history project
Interview conducted July 29, 2010.
Oral history interview with Holocaust survivor Manuel Goldberg. Goldberg was born in Paris in 1940 to Polish parents who came to France to escape anti-Semitism. His father was captured by the Nazis in 1941 and sent first to Drancy and then to Auschwitz, where he was killed. Goldberg, his mother, and his two brothers fled to Normandy, where they lived in a village not far from the D-Day beaches. Although there was little food and they had some close encounters with the German soldiers, Goldberg recalls several good things about their time in Normandy. When the war ended, the family went back to Paris until relatives could have them brought to the United States, where they arrived in 1948. In this interview, Goldberg discusses his family, their life in France during and after the war, their voyage to the United States, and adapting to life in America.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
v Personal narratives.
Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)
Jewish children in the Holocaust
Hidden children (Holocaust)
Crimes against humanity.
Patti, Chris J.,
Florida Holocaust Museum.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Holocaust & Genocide Studies Center.
University of South Florida.
Special & Digital Collections.
Oral History Program.
Holocaust & genocide studies oral history projects.
Holocaust survivors oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 20 1 0 University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.