Today, 27 January, marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. We set our busy lives aside and remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust.
At LifeBook we have several authors whose families were affected by the Holocaust. Susan and Ian Goldsmith wrote their family memoir Survival and Success in 2019. The project originally started because of Brexit; they needed to document their family history so they could apply for German citizenship. However, the project soon became so much more than that.
The research revealed a fascinating story, populated by remarkable individuals, who had faced Nazi Germany and the Holocaust with enormous tenacity and courage. However, it was also a difficult story, as many of their relatives, it turned out, had been ‘exterminated’ in the terrible concentration camps, such as Auschwitz and Riga.
Their father was one of the lucky ones for, via the Kindertransport, he had the chance to flee the horrors of the Nazi regime, and his subsequent arrival in the UK, as a young boy unable to speak a word of English, marked the start of a new life for him and, in due course, for his descendants also.
Born Salomon Robert Goldschmidt, Susan and Ian’s father was keen to assimilate into UK life. When he grew up, he changed his name to Bob Goldsmith and became a naturalised UK citizen, thereby making a conscious decision to distance himself from his German nationality in a post-war Britain where anti-German prejudice was still rife.
Time and attitudes have moved on since then and, today, Ian and Susan have no such qualms about their background; indeed, they are proud of their German-Jewish heritage.
Given the fact that their father escaped a country that slaughtered so many of his compatriots, it might seem surprising that Susan and Ian felt so strongly about retaining their links to Germany but it was that back story to their family that they needed to hold onto and it was that same desire that spurred them on to write their LifeBook. They also knew that the Germany of the 1940s was very different from the Germany of today, which has since faced up to its dark past and has tried to make reparation. They felt a strong connection to the country.
Susan and Ian readily admit that their father was a man of few words, especially when it came to his early life and ancestry, so when the family story was finally revealed, they were amazed at what they learned. Furthermore, the challenge of unearthing it made them appreciate how easy it can be for this most personal of information to be lost forever.
By creating their LifeBook, they can be sure that the Goldsmith family story will be preserved for future generations so that they too will know where they have come from and will be able to share with their families that same strong link to their German-Jewish ancestry.
You can also read more and watch a video about Susan’s and Ian’s memoir project here.