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 –