A Trip to the Past

A Trip to the Past

Maria Zebrine



History can be a subject that seems too far removed from where we are now. A topic that doesn’t need to be heard as much as other subjects. But, everything that has taken place in the past has had an effect on us today as a society. Primarily, the Holocaust can not be compared to any other event when it comes to the amount of death and destruction. As the evaluation of the Holocaust unfolds, there is much to say. It was a genocide carried out by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. It came with the aim of wiping out any perceived enemies of the party, especially Jewish people. 

Between 1933-1941 Nazi Germany went on to take away the Jews’ rights and property. Within 1941 the Nazi lashed out the camps for the mass murder of Jews. By 1945 when the war ended, nearly six million Jews were killed. Within that time span many lives were changed for the worse. Loved ones were sent away from the world people know. Each person who survived the Holocaust has a story. One  filled with nightmares and endings that are very hard to imagine. But, the first step to learning is understanding. This is an interview about a woman who tells her father’s survival story. 


To start off, the woman’s name is Lee Kikel and her father was a Holocaust survivor. She has written a book to honor and tell her father’s experience, the name of the book is Perseverance One Holocaust Survivor’s Journey from Poland to America “The story is one of perseverance, hope, and tenacity,” she says.


The Father’s Backstory – 

Kikel’s father was a humble man who was born in Poland. His name was Melvin Goldman. He lived in Lodz, the second largest city in Poland. As well he lived on a street that later in time would become a part of the ghetto. Over time Jews were forced into small spaces known as ghettos. He naturally was forced into the ghetto with his family of nine including him. They stayed united through the hardships, including being beaten for walking on the sidewalks and starving to death. It was a nightmare. It was a crowded place with a brick wall that denied them the freedoms they once had. Life past the ghetto could be seen through the golden, radiant sun and dewy grass. Kikel said her father felt that he was “in a zoo, looking out to Polish people through the ghetto.” Until the allies were close they remained in the ghetto until the time of departure for the place of death–Auschwitz. 


Life in Auschwitz- 

Auschwitz was a place that took the soul and ripped it into a thousand pieces. There was no hope, no light, and no happiness that ever made it through the dark cracks of the bloody walls that lay within the chambers. When the family arrived the thing they feared the most happened. Her father and his brother were taken to the side of “ safety,” from the gas chambers and other tortures. But, his beloved family was taken to the side of death and he never saw their faces again. He then had to find ways through the camp, even when his brother and him were separated from each other. He had to adapt and find little tricks and take advantage of the opportunities given to him. He went on to do jobs around the camp. The father sawed and cut grass( mainly labor work). Mrs. Kikel says, “He tried to remain low on the radar.” To survive meant to go unseen, invisible to the camp grounds. Life was blurry for many of these people because the chance of survival was so slim. With the stained, ripped clothing and the dark eyes that looked out at you, it was as if there were skeletons walking on the lifeless camp.  But as Mrs. Kikel says, “My grandfather said to carry on the family name to my father, and he took it with him for the rest of his life.” This is what got Melvin Goldman through the camp. 


Leaving The Camp-

Luckily for Mr. Goldman, the chance to get out was open. He had begged a German guard to put him on a transport to another town with all the energy he had left in him. In the town he ended up in the Ravensbruck, a women’s camp. He was lying on the cold, rough ground in a field, almost 80 percent dead. But, the Allies were close at the time and the 82nd Airborne saw people like Mr. Goldman lying in the fields. They parachuted out of the air and as they were walking the fields only then did they find and rescue Mr. Goldman. For the next five years, he would be in different hospitals throughout Germany recovering from all the damage his body took from being in the camp and ghetto. He would eventually come to the United States in the late 1950’s and experience many struggles along the way. He became a citizen in 1956. But, he knew no English, got various jobs, and went to night school before finding and marrying a woman in Pittsburgh. He came here because of the industrialization and job opportunities. He would later on become a very skillful jeweler. All his experiences here put him on an emotional rollercoaster. Mrs. Kikel states, “He considered America the greatest country in the world and was very proud and experienced many struggles along the way to be accepted here.” Mr. Goldman started a new life in the land of hopes and opportunities, and lived it to the very fullest.

There are many more stories about individuals like Mrs. Kikel’s father. The world can be tough to break through. But people like this show us just how vulnerable we really are and the value of our lives. Through the horrible circumstances and through the dangerous treatment these people received it is important to commend them for their bravery, and to tell their stories for others to learn and remember. Mrs Kikel hopes that more people believe and are educated on the Holocaust because of the scale it was on, so that it will never happen again. Her father’s desire was that someone would hear his story. So, as the article comes to a close may we gaze upon the challenges that Mr. Goldman went through to be able to have a life worth living.