Holocaust survivor Daniel Goldsmith speaks with Germantown Friends School students after his lecture, which was tied to the Upper School students’ summer read of Tatiana de Rosnay’s “Sarah’s Key.” (Photo by Laura Jamieson)

by Laura Jamieson

It’s one thing to read about the Holocaust in books, but Germantown Friends School students discovered that it’s a whole different experience to hear from a survivor. The Upper School students sat transfixed at an assembly on Oct. 2 as Daniel Goldsmith shared the story of how his life, as a Jewish child in Belgium, was altered by World War II and the Holocaust.

The assembly was the culmination of the GFS summer reading program; High school students, faculty, staff and parents read the novel “Sarah’s Key” by Tatiana de Rosnay before returning to school in September. It is the story of the escape and survival of one girl, Sarah, after the 1942 French roundup and deportation to camps of thousands of Parisian Jews.

“When you have the collective experience of everyone reading one book it is amazing to have someone come in and comment on it,” said Meg Goldner Rabinowitz, Upper School English teacher and head of the summer reading program.

Like Sarah, Daniel Goldsmith is a child-survivor of the Holocaust, but his story is not fictional. The students felt the weight of reality as Goldsmith revealed that his childhood ended at 8 years old when his father, while boarding a train for a work camp, told young Danny that he was now the man of the house and to take care of his mother and little sister. It was the last time Goldsmith saw his father. He later discovered that he was sent to the gas chambers upon arrival at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Goldsmith retold how he was hidden in orphanages, Catholic schools and even a family’s attic from age 8 until 12, when he was reunited with his mother and little sister.

“As the older generation is dying, it is imperative that we tell our stories to you,” Goldsmith said. “It’s important that we never forget what happened during the Nazi-era and it’s important that it never happens again.”

He urged the students to, “speak out and act out against evil, prejudice, intolerance and hatred.” In response, the students stood up and gave Goldsmith a vigorous standing ovation.