Holocaust survivor Sam Goetz shared his personal accounts during the years of the Nazi era before a full audience on Thursday in the Campus Center Ballroom.
“It is most difficult for me to convey to you the world at 11,” Goetz said. “I have a totally different life now.”
Goetz shared his accounts over a span of six years, 1939 to 1945, beginning when he was first forced into a concentration camp in Tarnow, Poland until he finally reached a point of liberation.
Goetz read several passages from his memoir entitled “I Never Saw My Face,” which he waited many years to write.
“Simply, it was too painful to write about,” Goetz said.
The audience was captivated by the amount of vivid detail Goetz shared, giving exact dates that held personal meaning.
“I was mesmerized by the story this man told,” Devorah Lieberman, ULV president, said.
She said it is an important discussion.
“I believe the students on our campus needed to hear his story.”
In November 1939, the first traumatic development began as the Nazi armies, who had entered his hometown one month prior, began to burn down synagogues and rip families apart, Goetz said.
He notes the following month, December 1939, as the beginning of dehumanization when most liberties were lost, such as being able to go out after sunset.
Goetz proceeded to 1942, when the first group of Nazi S.S. units sent Jews to gas chambers. Those under the age of 14 and older than 55 were sent to their death. Goetz, 13 at the time, was on the list.
“I wasn’t supposed to be here with you today,” Goetz said.
The S.S. looked at Goetz’s ID card, and left only to return a few days later to take away his mother and father.
“On my 14th birthday I had a feeling that I would never see them again,” Goetz said.
During the six year time span Goetz was transported to three separate concentration camps, not knowing what horror to expect next.
He described one camp as an eerie scene: S.S. guards shouting orders, german shepherd dogs barking next to them, all enclosed within electrified barbed wire.
Gas chambers were not the only means of death, but also starvation, thirst and harsh temperatures, he says.
Goetz said there were several instances that he survived by sheer luck, including the death march he was forced into in January 1945.
Liberation came on May 6, 1945, when a large tank with a star which signified freedom.
The survivors were wary, wanting to make sure it was not an illusion created by their minds. They had to touch the soldiers to make sure they were real, Goetz said.
“A day forever etched in my memory,” Goetz said.
“His story is a reminder of one of the greatest crimes against humanity,” said Jozef Goetz, nephew of Sam Goetz and a professor of computer science.
“I’ve been to Holocaust museums, but to see and listen to someone that’s actually experienced this is something else,” sophomore business administration major Karina Balmaceda said.
Goetz answered a few questions from the audience and took time to introduce his attending family.
“It is so important to understand that freedom is precious and hatred is horrible,” Goetz said.
Goetz was met with a standing ovation immediately following his speech.
Robert Penalber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.