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Sam Golman

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Nationality: American
Location: Czechoslovakia • Dachau Concentration Camp • France • Germany • Italy • Landsberg Concentration Camp • Missouri • Prague • St. Louis • United States of America
Experience During Holocaust: Worked for the Red Cross

Mapping Sam's Life

Click on the location markers to learn more about Sam. Use the timeline below the map or the left and right keys on your keyboard to explore chronologically. In some cases the dates below were estimated based on the oral histories.

“I don’t know that I’ve ever really tried to describe even to myself the actual feeling. It’s a combination of horror, it’s a combination of pity, compassion, hatred, violent hatred, really, it’s almost unbelievable, the hatred that it generates.” - Sam Golman

Read Sam's Oral History Transcripts

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Tape 1 - Side 1

PRINCE: Today is July 1, 1986, my name is “Sister” Prince and I am interviewing Sam Golman for the Oral History Project of the St. Louis Center for Holocaust Studies. Sam, could you tell me where you were born and when you were born?
GOLMAN: In St. Louis, August 3, 1911.
PRINCE: 1911. Was the rest of your family born here?
GOLMAN: I am the only one of my family born here. The rest of them were born in Russia and came to this country in, I believe, 1908, 1907, 1908. I am the only one of the family born here.
PRINCE: And how many in your family?
GOLMAN: Well, right now there are only two. There were four children; two of them have passed away.
PRINCE: But your mother and father, and four children.
PRINCE: Okay. Three children.
GOLMAN: No, four.
PRINCE: Oh, four, plus you.
GOLMAN: No, three plus me. Four all together. Three came over with mother and dad and I was born here.
PRINCE: What did your father do when he came here?
GOLMAN: He worked in a brewery on the north side of St. Louis, the old gas brewery in Baden, in north St. Louis. And came 1914, 1915, he started to collect scrap iron because this was very important for World War I. In that process, he made a lot of friends in southeast Missouri who asked him if, when we came back down there, to bring them various items of either clothing or peace goods. And he started to do that and eventually he and mother opened up a little store in Festus, Missouri. And that was the beginning and they stayed in the retail business until they retired in 1940.
PRINCE: And where were you, so you were brought up in Festus?
GOLMAN: I was reared in Festus. I was born in St. Louis, reared in Festus, and moved away from Festus when I came to Washington University and never went back.
PRINCE: And did your parents move to St. Louis?
GOLMAN: Yes. They moved to St. Louis in 1940.
PRINCE: Okay, so you went to Washington U. and were you interested in the community around you at that time, as far as being Jewish?
GOLMAN: Not really. I never grew up with too much of an awareness of being Jewish. As a matter of fact, I never had the opportunity of a Sunday school; I never learned one word of Hebrew. I was eventually Bar Mitzvahed at the Wall of Jerusalem at the age of 69. (LAUGHTER) And I always knew I was Jewish. I was reminded of that fact in Festus.
PRINCE: Because?
GOLMAN: Well, most of the community down there were anti – , I can’t say anti-Semitic because there were only two Jewish families in the town, but there was a lot of Ku Klux people who came in and they were anti-black and of course they also picked on the two Jewish families that were there.
PRINCE: How did they pick on them?
GOLMAN: Well, when I was in school, I was in the fourth grade, they didn’t let me go out at recess because the kids used to say, start taunting me, Christ killer and what have you and I started a fight. So when recess came, I stayed in and looked out the window to watch the other kids.
PRINCE: So you felt different?
GOLMAN: Yeah, it’s hard for me at this time to identify how different I really felt. Sure, without question, you would have to feel different. But it actually was not a great motivation in my life. I came up to college, Washington University, and I enjoyed that very much. I liked the big city; first time I’d been in the big city. And I made my life here after I got out of the university; I moved to New York for a couple of years, lived there, working for my cousin’s company, and then came back to St. Louis where I made my home ever since.
PRINCE: All right, now where does the part about what we want to discuss, in detail is your involvement with the Red Cross during the war.
GOLMAN: Well, I can tell you that Hitler brought out all the things and I believe stimulated a tremendous amount of hostility. Things that we read about and heard about and in the registration of all the young men for the draft, I came up with a very high number. And I remember saying to Louise, we had just had a little baby girl, Helen, and I said, “Honey, I’ve got to get into this somehow. I just can’t sit by and say I’m lucky because I’ve got a high draft number.”
PRINCE: You were how old then?
GOLMAN: 28. And so I went to my draft board and I volunteered. And the following month they sent me down to Jefferson Barracks. Of the 1500 young men that went down that day, they only needed a quota of 300. And I went through the examination and I went in front of the review board and there were three of us who had volunteered. And they asked each one of us individually why and I said, my answer was that I felt this was maybe more of my fight than most people, being Jewish. And after a tiny conference they said, “Well, if we, when we need you, we’ll call you.” And so I was turned down there.
A couple of months later, the draft board sent me down again and I went through the same routine and they asked me if I had been down there before and I said, “Yes.” And they said, “Why did they turn you down?” And I said frankly, “I don’t know.” They looked it up and they said, “Well, they turned you down then and we are turning you down now again.” I went home and I remember most of my family saying, “Well, you did your duty,” and I was asked at that time if I wouldn’t participate in raising some funds for the Red Cross. So I said, “Hey look, maybe this is a way to be of some service.” So I went down to the Red Cross and there they grabbed me.
PRINCE: Had you had any previous –
GOLMAN: No experience.
PRINCE: No, involvement with the Red Cross?
GOLMAN: No, no, no, no. And they sent me to Washington for two weeks of orientation and then sent me off on a liberty ship to land in Naples.
PRINCE: What year was this?
GOLMAN: 1944, early ’44. And there I was assigned to a replacement depo on a temporary basis and very shortly thereafter I was sent up to France and joined the 143rd regiment of the 36th infantry division.
PRINCE: Do you remember who that was commanded by? Any name?
GOLMAN: I believe the commander of, the divisional commander if I’m not mistaken, was Gerald Dolphins and I became the field director for the 143rd infantry regiment.
PRINCE: What’s does that mean?
GOLMAN: A field director in the Red Cross attached to a combat unit, really represents the contact between the soldier and his home. Any number of boys who had serious problems at home could come and discuss it with me and possibly I could contact the Red Cross back in the States and see if there wasn’t some solution. A good example was a young boy from Detroit had five children, he had no right to be in the army in the first place. But at that particular time they needed bodies so they took him. His wife desperately needed a very serious operation and she was refusing to do it because she didn’t have anybody to leave with the five kids. Well, we arranged to have him sent home and discharged from the army. Other things, Red Cross, uh, families would not hear from sons. They had no idea what had happened to them. And they would go to the Red Cross and they would say, “Can you find out where my son and is he alive or is he,” what have you. And generally about once a week a whole list would come and I could understand a lot of times boys who had been on the front lines for any length of time and what are they gonna say, “Mom, I’m alive,” and that’s about it. Anything more than that was censored. So we would cable back to the local chapters of the Red Cross saying so and so is in fine shape and we just talked with him. And if he doesn’t write it’s because it’s not easy for him to write, but he is in excellent spirits or what have you. We would handle possibly 200 inquiries either from boys or from their families every week. And what I had to do was make sure that I contacted or found out about the boys. If we found that some of these boys were really beginning to crack up, we could talk to their commanding officer of the company or batallion and say how about sending him on a little relief for a few days.
PRINCE: Did they listen?
GOLMAN: In a lot of cases, yes. My experience was that most commanding officers had felt a great responsibility for their men. It was not one of these things, “Oh, come on, he’s here, he’s a young father; we’ve got to use him.” There was a lot more compassion I think than most people might have indicated. And it was a full-time job. You lived right up with the service company, and the regiment.
PRINCE: So you were on the front lines?
GOLMAN: Any number of times, any number of times, caught up in the front lines and you didn’t move.
PRINCE: You were really thrown right into it.
GOLMAN: Yeah, I could say that I was very lucky, really very lucky when I think about it, to come out without any kind of scratch. I had two jeeps ripped by shell fire and an awful lot of people around me who were injured. My regiment when they had made the invasion of southern France we were on the front lines for 144 days without leave.
PRINCE: I thought the officer’s name sounded familiar. You landed in Normandy?
GOLMAN: In, no, no, no he landed in South Africa, I mean in southern France. Our regiment landed in San Rafael, southern France, there were three divisions who made that particular landing. We first began to run into work battalions. These were Russians; they were Poles, who had been drafted by the Germans to work in various factories.
PRINCE: Slave labor.
GOLMAN: Yes, definitely slave labor. Casualties among these people were tremendous.
PRINCE: They would be really Russian prisoners of war probably and –
GOLMAN: No, not prisoners of war; they were not soldiers. They were civilians.
PRINCE: Drafted in the –
GOLMAN: As a matter of fact, when we got into the suburb of Strasbourg in France we ran into a big building; it was a dormitory for possibly 3-400 Russian women who were working in a factory in Strasbourg; they were not soldiers. They were just brought there to work in the factory, to supply various items for the German army. I remember very vividly, we threw a Christmas Eve party for these girls in one part of the Maginot Regiment. The division of, actually the regiment supplied food and they had a regimental band that played for them. A number of the magazines in our country got pictures, publicity pictures of that particular event. As a matter of fact, several of the pictures that I took were used.
PRINCE: What was that word you used, Maginot –
GOLMAN: Maginot Regiment. This is a supply area in, just outside the city. It was part of the French Maginot Line that theoretically was to keep the Germans out.
PRINCE: You started by telling me that the first thing that you saw was the labor batalions.
GOLMAN: Yes, labor batalions. And as we then got into – I guess it was, but I’m not sure of the exact date, probably two or three months later when we actually made the crossing into Germany. And there, for the first time, we ran into a prisoner of war camp in a little town of Murnaur, M U R N A U R, I believe was the spelling. There were 4,000 Polish officers that were prisoners of war, of which there were 40 Jewish officers. Those 40 Jewish officers were isolated into what was the stable. They were not permitted to associate with the rest of the Polish officers.
And when our men came into and liberated that particular area, the first thing they did was to insist that all the Jewish officers be given clean new uniforms. They found a Jewish chaplain from an army headquarters and he came over and outside they set up a very elaborate dinner for the 40 Jewish officers, health services and whoever wanted them, 4,000 others could watch and see. This was a demonstration. That was something that the American boys just couldn’t understand. And actually in our division we had very few Jewish boys. It was a Texas National Guard division with of course replacements coming from all over the country. I believe at no time did we have over 300, 350 Jewish boys in the whole division.
But the non-Jews there had a tremendous, tremendous emotional reaction. First they saw the labor, the little labor camps and then they saw this particular thing and the word sort of went out, “The only good German is a dead German.” And I must tell you, a lot of Germans who wanted to surrender were killed rather than taken prisoner. It was an emotional reaction; the American boys just couldn’t handle it.
PRINCE: So they drew the line at fighting.
GOLMAN: Well, not at fighting.
PRINCE: No, the fighting was okay, but after that.
GOLMAN: Yes, that’s right, I mean no prisoners of war. Germans were horrible according to their thinking. The next experience and the first major experience we had with prisoners, with concentration camps was in the city of Landsberg. Landsberg was the place where Hitler was incarcerated and where he wrote the book Mein Kampf. Landsberg, when we got there, still had about 3,000 Jews alive, but more important than that, there had been, we had bombed – our air force had bombed a bridge across a river. The Germans had been trying to kill off all the Jews and take them on trains away from Landsberg in advance of the American forces that were coming and here they’re stuck with about 20 car loads of bodies. We had to hold those bodies there until the American government could send a Congressional committee over to take a look and take a smell. And there is no smell in the world that is the same, the decay of human flesh.
When we took the camp and there were still 3,000 survivors in the camp, one of the boys who spoke German and also spoke Yiddish got up with the bullhorn on the truck and outloud said, “Please don’t panic; we are Americans. We will have plenty of good. We will have medical care for you within the next several hours. And we want to urge you, we want to repeat this several times, you are going to get two cans for each person. One is going to be a light can in which there will be three or four cigarettes, a high vitamin chocolate bar, a cereal, some toilet paper, and the other will be the food. You will have a little opener for that can, but please, for your sake, do not eat more than three or four bites at any one time, because if you do, you will probably die.”
A couple of hours later, and we waited patiently, a couple of hours later, the food stuffs from the medical bin from all the emergency hospitals came in and we started to give out the food and again he kept repeating what was in those cans. The first man was in line and obviously seemed to be the leader, opened up the light-weight can, and took out the candy and took out the cereal and walked possibly 40 or 50 feet away and very, very loudly said in Yiddish, “This is for the children.” And every one of the adults, and there were some children in the camp, every one of the adults did exactly the same thing.
PRINCE: And you saw that.
GOLMAN: (PAUSE) I still see it.
PRINCE: I know you do. I can see it in your eyes.
GOLMAN: So, anyway, about a week later we got word, let me back up a minute. The following evening, there was a delegation that was brought to me from the camp and they said, “Is it possible for us to have services?” I said, “Let me find out.” The closest big city was Augsberg. The man who designed a synagogue that was still standing there was the same man who designed B’nai Amoona here in St. Louis.
PRINCE: Oh, really?
GOLMAN: And for some reason or other, that synagogue over there was not burned. Luckily, at Seventh Army headquarters we had a Jewish chaplain and he said, “If you can bring them over, I’ll be there.” So I went to the colonel of our regiment, and I said, “Colonel, how about it?” And he said, “Sam, as many volunteers who want to go, we will drive trucks, our own boys, and load ’em up and take them.” 16 truckloads went over. We took them over. We even took special food, so they would have it, and wine, (LAUGHTER) hard rum. Services lasted from about seven o’clock until one o’clock in the morning. With Kaddish, I guess, and I don’t – I couldn’t understand the services, they were all in Hebrew, but I could identify the Kaddish, words of the Kaddish. They must have been repeated 30 times. And afterwards they were served wine, sandwiches, and we took them home.
Two days later the same delegation came to see me and they said, “For us to sit here is foolish. We know of a town not far from here where there is a leather factory and there are machines and there is leather and if we could get that over here we could start making shoes.” How they found out, I’m never sure. But they were correct. And we arranged to get over there and we brought back just truckloads of leather and oh, possibly 100 of these old-fashioned pedal sewing machines and these people went to work; attempting to live or reconstruct some kind of dignity which was literally impossible, “Sister”. When you have been dehumanized for as long as these people were, to try and come back to what we consider a decent style of living is literally impossible.
PRINCE: Tell me about their physical condition, that some were able to even attempt this.
GOLMAN: Well, we lost quite a few even though the medical teams worked and, first you had to delouse them.
PRINCE: Yeah, I would – explain the process as best you can remember.
GOLMAN: Well, to delouse them was very simple. You strip them all of all their clothes and you had these DDT, in those days they used DDT powder and they had – they just sprayed the entire body from head to foot with DDT.
PRINCE: Here is a picture, I brought this book of the (NOISE FROM BOOK BEING OPENED, OVERTALK) liberations of concentration camps and I looked it up, and here is Landsberg.
GOLMAN: Sure, Landsberg, sure.
PRINCE: And right here, what we’re talking about, it says, “We also told them to change their concentration camp clothing.” So –
GOLMAN: Well, we got clothing for them. We gave them disgarded American uniforms. We took all their clothing, whatever there was and just burnt it, actually just burnt it. It was a – an amazing experience to try to see some of the elders try to organize, and reorganize their way of living, based upon what they one time knew. Some of them had been in the camp, my guess is three years, two years, some fairly recent, some from France were fairly recent. We did not see there the kind of –

Tape 1 - Side 2

GOLMAN: I really didn’t see people who were unable to walk, in Landsberg I’m talking about. Skinny, we talked, 90 pounds, 100 pounds, 75 pounds for some of the women. Kids, well, like some of the pictures we see of deprived kids. But it was not as extreme as we later on saw in Dachau. We got them out of there. As a matter of fact this is one of the camps where we were able to take them into Italy, a lot of them, because there were a lot of Italian laborers that were working in that area, and our army said we should repatriate the Italians back to Italy. And I remember going up to the colonel of our regiment and saying, “Colonel, we’ve got a lot of Jews here and I know that there’s an underground in Italy, because I had known that before when I had been in Italy, we had been in Italy.”
PRINCE: Explain what that underground in Italy was doing.
GOLMAN: All right, well let me tell you, then I’ve got to backtrack a bit. When I was first in Naples, a young Hillel rabbi, as a matter of fact he had been with Hillel at Yale, came to me one day and he said, “I have a serious problem.” “What problem?” He says, “Come with me, get in my jeep and come with me.” And we went into Naples itself. I remember so vividly the name of the street because Louise and I visited that in the early ’70s, via Tarsia, T A R S I A. (TAPE TURNED OFF)
GOLMAN: (INAUDIBLE) There were 500 Jews, who had come through the German lines, and who had come through the American lines.
PRINCE: They came from camps you mean?
GOLMAN: Somehow, where they came from we never knew, but the Israelis had a company of men that were attached –
PRINCE: This was people from Palestine?
GOLMAN: Palestine, you’re right, from Palestine.
PRINCE: I’m, just for the sake of the tape.
GOLMAN: Yeah. Who had volunteered, they were part of the British army and they were taking care of these people and they were sharing their provisions with them. And these people were in desperate shape. And I remember the chaplain, Meyer Reznikoff was his name, just came back to me. We went up to army headquarters, we looked over the rosters to try to find some Jewish name of high authority so we can go and talk with him. And we found a colonel; it was in the supply section. We went up and talked with him. To make a long story short, we arranged the next day and we took a whole truckload of foodstuffs, powdered milk, c-rations, k-rations, whatever we could get, we took the whole truckload of clothing, discarded American uniforms with blankets and everything else. And we got it, but we couldn’t take the trucks into the street, because the route was too narrow but that was no problem. The Jewish boys from the Palestinian brigade took care of that for us and we got that settled. A week later I happened to be in Naples again that 500 approximately we saw, were gone. There was another 500 there.
PRINCE: And they were going to –
GOLMAN: Well, we assumed. We found out later and I found out many years later when I was in Israel that they used false passports, and they used all kinds of means to get them on to a ship and on to Palestine. And this was a regular run; there was a whole underground that was working. So, now getting back to Landsberg, I said to the colonel, “I think that if we can tack on three or four truckloads of Jews and we could take them to Bolzano, in Italy. We could drop them off there, give them food for four or five days – you’re on two; we can re – erase – somehow. And we made a number of those trips. I was on two of them. As many as 200 to 300 on each trip. And we went from Landsberg across Austria over the Branner pass and we dropped off the Jews before we got into the town of Bolzano because that town was being held by the British and they were very hostile to the whole situation. But somehow or other they disappeared and we are not positive of what happened except that in Israel some years later I happened to mention it to a chap whom I had become very friendly with and he said, “Oh, I know several people who came through that route.” So evidently some of them, well, getting back then…
PRINCE: I’d like to ask you one question. When you say “we,” was there the whole Red Cross or was it you –
GOLMAN: No, no, no.
PRINCE: Was it the army?
GOLMAN: It was the American army. It was directed to repatriate the Italians, work batallions, to get rid of them. This –
PRINCE: Your role has changed.
GOLMAN: No, no, I’m still a Red Cross field director, but now I’m –
PRINCE: You’d taken on – by yourself.
GOLMAN: By myself, oh sure, it had nothing to do with the Red Cross, as a matter of fact, if the Red Cross had known anything about it I might have been kicked out and sent home. I didn’t give them a thought. Prior, just prior to that, we had heard that they were zeroing in on Dachau. And Dachau is about 10 miles from Munich. So a number of us decided to link up if we could, because we were stationary, in Landsberg at the time. Our whole outfit was holding. We got on the autobahn and, when we got within 20 miles of Dachau, we could smell it. The day before American boys had liberated. There were no Germans in the camp at the time; they had all left.
PRINCE: Is the smell different than the other smell?
GOLMAN: No, no, except that here you smelled the ovens that were still hot.
PRINCE: I was going to say, the burning, instead of the decaying.
GOLMAN: They were still hot.
PRINCE: And the decay.
GOLMAN: Well both, both, there were piles and piles that had never gotten into the oven and the ovens were still hot when we got there, when I got there, which was a day after the actual liberation.
PRINCE: Tell me about your feelings.
GOLMAN: I don’t know how to describe it, “Sister”, I really don’t know how to describe it. You are already in part recognizing what you’re going to see and yet you never, never recognize it.
PRINCE: Did you know before you got to Dachau that there were ovens there?
GOLMAN: Oh sure.
PRINCE: I mean, people knew.
GOLMAN: Oh yes, everybody, I think we knew about these things months and months in advance from various interrogations of German prisoners you got them to talking and I know – we knew that the camps were there and we knew what was happening. There were no ovens in Landsberg. In Landsberg they were taking them by trainloads, the bodies by trainloads, and they were gassing them and taking them away, but no ovens.
PRINCE: And all of it was left for you just to see it and feel it.
GOLMAN: Yeah. And we got into, the way we got into the gate, every one of the camps as I now know it had over them the sign, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” work makes – well whatever…
PRINCE: One free.
GOLMAN: Yeah, yeah. We had to strip ourselves from the deloused just to make sure. We ran into men sitting outside of the barracks and didn’t even raise their head when we walked by, some of them couldn’t. There we saw literally skeletons. And the American army and the American soldiers, medical people, literally worked 24 hours a day, around the clock, in an effort to save as many of these people as they could.
PRINCE: Were they afraid of typhus?
GOLMAN: Yeah, well all kinds. Well, actually lice, the lice we were afraid. When you were sprayed down, I mean you were from head all the way to foot. There wasn’t an inch of your body that didn’t get sprayed with the DDT.
PRINCE: I’ve never asked this question before, but when people saw that, did anyone just absolutely throw up? I mean were they just so –
GOLMAN: No, no, I don’t recall seeing that, maybe the people who got in there the day before I did. Somehow or other, and I don’t know that I’ve ever really tried to describe even to myself the actual feeling. It’s a combination of horror, it’s a combination of pity, compassion, hatred, violent hatred, really, it’s almost unbelievable, the hatred that it generates.
And we interviewed the local people and we interviewed the people in Munich where we were a few days later and nobody smelled anything, nobody knew anything, and you know that it’s just impossible. But evidently people can close their minds and their eyes and their ears and their nose when it’s something that they have to – what were…As the Germans said, “Well I was never a member of the Nazi party.”
PRINCE: Did it frighten you seeing that?
GOLMAN: Yes, of course, of course, really a horror that’s just almost unbelievable. The few of us who went in – there were possibly a convoy of 50 of us who went over that second day. And I don’t think there’s any question that either, well certainly not consciously but subconsciously it does make a permanent impression and it changes your aspects about a lot of things.
Again, the word just kept going around among all the frontline boys, the only good Germans were dead Germans, really, that was it. And this was at a time when the war, you know, when, frankly, Nazis were on the run, you were only fighting pockets of them, certainly not organized resistance on their part. Tens of thousands of them were turning themselves in. It’s my belief that thousands of Germans were unnecessarily killed because of this reaction of hatred.
PRINCE: Did people have any reaction, did the other soldiers or anybody have any reaction to you because –
GOLMAN: I was Jewish?
PRINCE: As a Jew you were…
GOLMAN: Oh, no, oh no, as a matter of fact, talking about that, in my own regiment – and this is going back possibly six months, I was assigned a new driver, a driver by the given name of Billy Sunday, William Sunday. He came from a small town in the heel of Texas.
PRINCE: Oh, it had to be Texas. (LAUGHTER)
GOLMAN: Yeah, the heel of Texas, and I remember the first time he came over to introduce himself to me and he had been with me for a couple of days, he turned to me and he said, “Mr. Golman, are you a Jew?” And I said, “Yes, Billy, I sure am. Why do you ask?” “Well sir, I never saw a Jew before.” “What did you expect?” “Well sir, I don’t know.” I said, “Did you expect me to have horns, did you expect me to look a lot different?” “Well, gee, I don’t know, I just had never met a Jew before.” And he was a wonderful, wonderful young boy. He was really one of the great heroes of the regiment from the landing in Solarno in Italy, all the way up. We became very good friends. But nobody said to me, “My God, you as a Jew, how do you react to this?” I think the reaction is universal. It was a human reaction.
PRINCE: Well, when I asked about a reaction, I meant any kind. In other words, were they any – did they change towards you at all, even in a softer manner?
GOLMAN: No, no, no.
PRINCE: A softer manner, yeah…
GOLMAN: No, no. There was never, no, no, there was never, this wasn’t even a factor at all. They didn’t look to me and say, “Look what they did to you.” Because primarily I am sure these camps were identified with Jews, but they talked in terms of German and Nazi inhumanity, that was what was the real factor, not because of anything else.
PRINCE: Did you have any conversations with any of the survivors?
GOLMAN: No I didn’t because I couldn’t speak their language and they couldn’t speak English.
PRINCE: Were there men and women?
GOLMAN: Yes, men – now, in Dachau we saw – at least I saw no children. I saw a lot of men and a lot of women. There were still thousands in Dachau when I got there. And now that you are asking me the question I am really trying to think back, any kind of specific reaction. And I really don’t think I had anything that was different, now, it must have been, what am I saying, of course it must have been. That’s been what, 40 some odd years ago and I really –
PRINCE: It’s a long time.
GOLMAN: Yeah, a person’s mind begins to cover over and blot out certain things. I think, I really think that I became a more committed Jew with that stage in my life than I had ever been before. There was never any question in my mind that I was Jewish. I was told I was Jewish from a little kid on, whether I felt so or anything else.
PRINCE: You are today a giving, caring member of this community, to the Jewish, to the Jewish Federation. (OVERTALK)
GOLMAN: Well, to most things. I am totally committed to the survival of Israel. I believe that Israel has made a place for Jews in our modern world that we haven’t had before. I think it has given us a kind of, a different kind of reaction like, most instances very good, and some instances bad, depending upon the things that happen with, currently, today with all the little events that are happening. But at least, I – I’m a member of a group of people who have recognized stature. And for that I am prepared, Louise and myself, to work hard and to do everything we can for the perpetuation.
PRINCE: We’re connecting – somehow we’re connecting this experience with what you are today.
GOLMAN: Oh there’s no question, there’s no question. Without the experience that we had and that I had, obviously and I’m certain that I wouldn’t know and I wouldn’t continue to be Jewish in every sense of the word, but not as totally committed, not as – let me say to you, now I’m belligerently committed to being Jewish.
PRINCE: While we’re on this subject, explain what your, what you did with the legacy with…
GOLMAN: The precious legacy?
PRINCE: Yes, explain what that is and –
GOLMAN: Louise and I – I guess just 10 years go, we had been in Israel and we wanted to go to Poland and spend 10 days in Poland, which we did, and then we were going to come back to Switzerland and come home from Switzerland. Along the way you fly over Czechoslovakia and I said to Louise, “Let’s see if we can’t get a visa to stop in Prague and spend several days there.” We had never been there before. Which we did, it was very simple. We got there and we were walkers.
And the first day we were there we asked questions and we found out that Prague itself had never been hurt in the war, physically. And we happened on, in our walking, we happened onto an area where we saw a little synagogue, where we saw a number of buildings and we found out by asking some questions that this was the Jewish quarter. Well, we were fascinated with all these various remains and there was a Friday night, it was on a Friday, and we decided to ask if there were services and this was something that Louise and I have always done regardless of where we might be in the world. If there was a Jewish community and if there were services, we would attend. And in every instance, for me it’s a matter of being there, not being able to participate because I really don’t know one word of Hebrew. But we went that Friday night to this little shul called the Elk Nia shul, the old-new shul which has been in existence since, I guess in the early 1500s, continuously used. And there were about 30 people there of which 20 of them were obviously visitors. Services were, they had no rabbi, services were conducted that particular time by a young Swiss boy, very orthodox, he was there as a visitor and he conducted the services and they maintain a little Jewish community. (PHONE RINGS; TAPE STOPS)
We found out in the next day or two (TAPE INTERRUPTED AGAIN) that there was a fantastic amount of Jewish history in Prague. It really was the Jewish culture center of middle Europe from the 1000s even up to date. As a matter of fact, we realized that a couple of days in Prague was not going to do it. We were in no hurry; we had no specific time. We wound up spending 10 days there.
PRINCE: Oh my.
GOLMAN: And we began to visit some of the buildings and the story really developed that Prague was to become the center of all the things that they could accumulate.
PRINCE: The Nazis.
GOLMAN: The Nazis. And that it was to be turned over when all of the Jews in the world were destroyed, it was to become a memorial to a dead civilization and they were going to present it to Mr. Hitler.
PRINCE: I’m glad you’re clarifying that. “They” – the Czech –
GOLMAN: The Nazis. Actually, the German Nazis. We found treasures there that were almost unbelievable. They had been accumulated from Bohemia, Arabia, the Sudetenland, from parts of Germany, parts of Poland, all catalogued, every item, totally catalogued.
PRINCE: How did you find your way to this? Who let you in?
GOLMAN: Well, actually, we began to talk to a couple of the caretakers who introduced us to the two curators of the Jewish museum. And this is what it was developed as. The long history of it I won’t try to go into it now with you. We saw, for example, Torah covers. A room full, they were all tagged, all hung up, all with a serial number on it with its identification. There must have been at least a thousand of them.
PRINCE: Like the Jews in the camps…
GOLMAN: We saw menorahs, we saw, even so much of things as household goods, and there was one circumcision chair, which is a double-seated chair. It was used in the old days. It was mind-boggling. Well, after our time there we went on to Switzerland and from there we came on home. And of course when you’re on the plane coming back from Europe, you’ve got seven or eight hours of time and you either eat, drink or sleep or talk. And Louise and I were talking and we said, “My God, this is such a treasure trove of history.” We saw one of the books that were done by movable type, 15 years after the Guttenberg Bible. This was all done in Hebrew, 1500. That library, one library there had 30,000 volumes of Judaica. And that building was in very bad shape. It had been condemned. We got in it because we just sort of elbowed in.
PRINCE: The whole concept is so unbelievable, that they’d want to destroy the people but here they save this as a museum –
GOLMAN: As a museum to a dead civilization.
PRINCE: Extinct, and here is…
GOLMAN: So we both agreed we ought to try to do something about it. But neither one of us really knew how. About a month after we were home, an old friend, Mark Kalisman from Washington came here. Mark was at that time, and still is in charge of the Council of Jewish Federations Washington Office. With a long history of Czech association because he worked for 14 years as Representative Dannig’s first assistant. And Charlie Dannig was a Czech. As a matter of fact, Mark had been to Prague two or three times and had seen the same thing that we had seen and he himself didn’t have any idea of what could or should be done about it.
Well, we got together and we started to talk and we said, “Well, let’s explore it.” So I flew into Washington and I first met with Representative Dannig. We got the Czech ambassador over to his office and we talked and he did a great job of trying to sell the idea, and unfortunately got no place. And I went over to see Senator Tom Eagleton who is an old, old friend and I told Tom about this and he said, “Well, gee, I’ve educated a couple of boys who were now on the European desks in the State Department. Let’s get together –

Tape 2 - Side 1

GOLMAN: A long story made short is that we worked through every possible avenue, including a number of members of Congress, members of the State Department. And Mark Kalisman finally hit upon the idea of trying to interest the Smithsonian into the project and he called me up and he said, “Sam, it’s going to cost, what can we do?” And I said, “Let’s do it.” And we sent first four people from the Smithsonian over there and they came back very enthusiastic. In the meantime I had been over there again with Mark and we had talked to a lot of the supposedly proper people and we got a lot of reassurances that it was a great project but nothing. And then we got encouragement and then we sent 14 people from the Smithsonian over there for 10 days and they photographed and they laid out the whole project. And it still took us three years after everything was set through a miracle to get the Czech government to agree to let the whole traveling exhibit out. It was a traveling exhibit of 350 pieces that the Smithsonian had selected. It included a few of the children’s drawings from Theresienstadt which was one of the concentration camps about 30 miles away from Prague. A famous little poem, “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” this little girl had done, several of them. There were hundreds and hundreds of drawings that had been salvaged and saved. Now we could not include that into the Smithsonian exhibit, but we arranged for that to come over and that was shown at the Klutznick Museum in the B’nai Brith building in Washington simultaneously. The most amazing experience in all the work and the efforts that went on and it just now, after almost three years, it’s just now being returned to Czechoslovakia. It not only traveled to eight of the museums in our country but three of the museums in Canada.
PRINCE: You must feel wonderful.
GOLMAN: Well, it’s good…
PRINCE: It’s wonderful, and everyone is grateful…
GOLMAN: And what’s amazing is that the success of this exhibit has inspired a number of other countries in middle Europe, Poland, now for example, Bulgaria. Bulgaria was a treasure trove of Sephardic Judaic history because at the time of the inquisition in Spain a very large amount of the Spanish people moved to Bulgaria and set up a very, very elaborate Jewish community.
PRINCE: I didn’t know that.
GOLMAN: As a matter of fact, Bulgaria was the one country in World War II that really refused to isolate its Jews and they really were a haven for a lot of Jews. Well, things are still developing. We don’t know where it’s going to go.
PRINCE: But you touched a piece of history, and it goes back so far.
GOLMAN: When we were in Warsaw, Poland, Louise and I handled a piece of correspondence in our hands, it was in a plastic envelope, but we handled one that was written in the late 900s. And we said, “My God, we don’t have a right to touch this. We don’t have a right to any.” Well, there’s a tremendous amount of Judaica that went underground in Poland that now is coming out. When the Polish government is very interested in joining the crowd, who knows what’ll happen. Right now they have several thousand Torahs that are just now coming out of the underground and a lot of them I believe will be able to come to this country and be established in synagogues, temples of our country.
PRINCE: Do we have some here?
GOLMAN: We have one at Shaare Emeth.
PRINCE: Sam, I’d like to go back and just ask you one question.
GOLMAN: You can ask me more.
PRINCE: (LAUGHTER) When you came back after what you saw in the camps in Landsberg and Dachau, I’m sure – I know from just talking to you and knowing you that you carried it with you then and you carry it with you now. What was your reentry like back here and how did people respond to whatever you had to tell them and did they ask…?
GOLMAN: Well, I must tell you, when I first came back I felt like an evangelist. I really wanted to tell as many people as I could of those types of experiences and after a short while I stopped because people did not really want to hear it. They said you have to put what’s horrible in the past. And I remember saying to Louise I am better off to shut up. They’re not hearing me, they are not knowing, they don’t want to know. I have a feeling, “Sister”, that when things get very horrible, people close their ears and their eyes and everything else, too painful. I remember when I first came back, shortly after I came back, in the beginning of ’46, I was asked, along with Mel Feist to be a part of the first emergency fundraising campaign. Bob Edmund called me and he said we’ve got to try and organize something and we would love for you and Mel Feist, if you would, to trades and industries division, which we had never had before. The goal was a million dollars. A million dollars is really a lot of money.
We had no trouble with, I remember Mr. May, Martin May Sr., hosting a breakfast at Famous & Barr for all the Jewish employees, there were 300 and some odd there. Most of these people had never made a contribution to our Federation. The Federation, basically before had been taken care of by a few people. So, that day, we raised, what was an amazing amount, I believe it was several thousand dollars and it was really an amazing experience. That year, we raised our million dollars, ’46.
PRINCE: ’46.
We raised our million dollars and a little more. And we had an evaluation meeting afterwards and I remember saying at that meeting of the board of the Federation that there was some kind of misunderstanding. A lot of people felt that this was a one-time contribution. And that it was a lifetime’s contribution. It was not one time. It was going to get bigger and bigger and bigger because you had people all over the world who desperately were waiting for a haven and it was going to be in the middle of nowhere and it was going to be up to us to do it. And that we should start immediately in a public relations campaign. As a matter of fact, we sat down and we wrote a long critique and plan of, it was not followed, not through any fault of anybody, but it was just not properly handled. And the following year there was a wonderful chap who took over as campaign head, Sidney Solomon, and he raised his goal which was again just about a million dollars. And maybe for the first time a lot of people began to recognize that this was going to be an ongoing situation and we were buying our future. And I stopped talking about it, about other things. It never left my mind or my heart, but why try to tell them something else…
PRINCE: I have interviewed survivors of the camps here and they worked at (UNCLEAR)
GOLMAN: We have one still here. We have a concentration camp, out of Auschwitz, Leon Kaye; he still works for us. After – in the last 20 years, in travels around Europe we have been to a number of the camps. I guess it’s the thing to see and the thing to do, I’m really not sure, I’m really not sure it is, but we have done it. Leon was taken into Auschwitz from Krakow, his hometown, and Auschwitz is right outside, Birkenau Auschwitz, as a 15 year old kid. And he and two of his buddies survived five years and the reason they survived is because they were young and they were healthy and they could work. And as long as they would volunteer for jobs, certain kinds, a carpenter or this or that, a bricklayer, if they, none of them knew anything about, but they volunteered. They stayed alive and I remember when Leon first came to St. Louis; he worked for Stix, Baer & Fuller and he had a fight down there. He worked in the receiving department. And I remember getting a call from Sam – I forget, the head of the Federation at the time and he said, “I’ve got a problem.” He tells me about it and I says, “We’ll give him a job.”
PRINCE: Send him over.
GOLMAN: And we put him to work. And for a number of years I could never get Leon to discuss the situation. We became very good friends. We still are, to this day really very, very good friends. And only about 10 years ago, maybe a little longer, did he begin to discuss his life, those years.
PRINCE: Sam, is there anything that I haven’t touched on?
GOLMAN: I don’t think you’ve overlooked a thing, “Sister”, I really don’t. No, I don’t think you’ve overlooked a thing. I, what we’ve talked about are about as pertinent to the Jewish situation as you can imagine. War is at best an awful, awful thing. It’s an awful thing when we as human beings see dead people. We turn them over to see if it’s somebody we know. And you can do it, the first time you do it, it’s a horrible experience and then you do it as a matter of fact, and you say, “My God, how can I do this?” And this is one more death. I don’t – I don’t know of any answer. The time I spent over there, it was good for me because I felt that I had to do it, as a Jew.
PRINCE: And you could have stayed here.
GOLMAN: Oh, yes, yes, I was glad that I did it. To this day I’m glad in spite of all the horror.
PRINCE: Well you helped a lot of people. And you were committed then and you’re committed now. And I thank you so much for giving me your time. I really do; it’s not fun to go back and talk about these things. Thank you.

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