Archive for Wednesday, February 2, 2000

Holocaust survivor speaks to students

February 2, 2000

Every head is shaved. Every family is broken apart. Every Jew is trying to fend for himself or herself in a terror-stricken, hostile environment. All personal belongings are taken, and identities are wiped away.

This is what Sonia Golad, 72, wakes up to in the middle of the night, wishing the images would disappear.

But for Golad, they won't. Golad is one of a handful of people in the Kansas City area who survived the Holocaust's deadly concentration camps.

On Jan. 25, Golad spoke about her experiences and sufferings during the Holocaust to Tonganoxie Junior High students. Every year, Golad is invited to speak to students at the time they are reading of the "Diary of Anne Frank."

Golad said she wants people to know what she had to suffer, in hopes that another Holocaust may be prevented. One highlight of her life now is speaking to students about the holocaust, something that scarred her for life.

"The only thing I can tell you is that war tolerance means a lot," Golad said. "If practiced, you know you are doing something right. Take the same message to your friends. You shouldn't judge anyone by the color of their skin and the way they are living. This is the only thing that can prevent another Holocaust."

Golad still suffers today, not just mentally, but also physically. At the start of her speech, she apologized for her speech impediment. She was beaten severely in the face in concentration camps, which spurred the growth of a tumor. Removal of the tumor caused a facial paralysis.

Golad was only 12 years old when she and her family were forced from their home to the streets. They were then marched into the "ghetto." Golad lived in a small room with 37 people.

She lived in a town in Poland that was considered part of Soviet territory. The Germans broke a treaty and moved into her town, a city of 250,000. About 85,000 of residents were Jewish.

Because the Germans would take certain numbers of Jews each day out into the woods and execute them if they were not assigned to work, Golad and her family were forced to find places to hide to avoid being killed.

One woman choked her child one of Golad's cousins to avoid having the child killed.

"A lot of people sacrificed for the good of others," Golad said.

Because Golad did not resemble a typical Jew, she said, she received a lot of breaks. She also got decent jobs, working for Germans. Before being taken to a camp in Astonia, Golad worked on railroads.

Shortly thereafter, Jews were loaded into cattle box cars, given a minimal amount of water and taken to the camp.

The Jews were forced to take turns putting dead bodies of their own people in furnaces.

"It was a horrible hell," Golad said. "But, we made it our little haven in a horrible hell."

Golad said that the Germans would not accompany them to the chambers. So the people would sing songs and recite poems, searching for the hope that they would survive the suffering.

"They made us unhuman," Golad said. "We did not think of ourselves as human beings anymore."

Golad helped about 40 people escape from a camp in Germany. Twenty-eight survived. A man wrote a book about the escape and included Golad's role in it.

Golad said there are 30,000 Holocaust survivors in the world.

When asked what she remembers most, she said: "The miseries and deaths. It is unbelievable that I could survive this. I pray to God every day."

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