Holocaust survivor leads Kristallnacht remembrance

Regina Garcia Cano

Betty Gold describes her family’s struggle during the Holocaust to the audience at the Kiva Monday night. “We were always on the run,” Gold said. “Run. Run. Run.” Caitlin Sirse | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Seventeen people were hidden behind a wall. Except for their breathing, nothing else could be heard. Suddenly, a baby girl began crying. To avoid being discovered, the baby’s mother suffocated her to death.

“I will never forget that day in my life,” said Betty Gold, recalling the first day her family hid to escape the Nazi regime.

Gold spoke Monday night at the Kiva for the 70-year commemoration of Kristallnacht – Night of Broken Glass. Kent State’s Jewish Studies Program, PRIDE!Kent and the Kent Hillel Jewish Student Center sponsored the event.

The film “Paragraph 175: The Fate of Gay Men in the Nazi Regime” was also screened as part of the program.

Kristallnacht refers to the riots conducted by members of the Nazi party against Jews living in Germany and Austria the night of Nov. 9 and the first hours of Nov. 10, 1938. Synagogues and Jewish-owned homes in those cities were destroyed and set on fire, and their windows were broken. Jews were forced to pay for the cleanup of the destruction.

About 100 people were killed, and a large number of men were sent to concentration camps.

“The Nazis claimed it was spontaneous, but we have the telegrams that show it wasn’t anything like that,” history instructor Sol Factor said. “The firemen and the policemen were told not to intervene unless the flames were destroying a non-Jewish building.

“It clearly showed the intentions of what the Nazis were going to do to Jews,” he said.

Originally from Trochembrod, Poland, Gold was not part of the Kristallncht, but she hid with her family for more than two years behind a wall, in a cave and a swamp before Russian officers discovered them. Gold and her mother were sent to a potato farm. Her father was sent to a leather processing company, and her brother was forced to join the Russian forces.

“The worst pain about hiding is hunger, but the will to survive is so strong,” Gold said. “I was designated to go and search for food because I was a woman. Men were circumcised and if they were discovered they would have probably been killed. I stole food from farms, garbage cans, and my father rationed them.”

A month before World War II ended, Gold’s brother was killed. She and her mother reunited with her father and were able to contact a relative in Cleveland. Each of them received a Visa and moved to the United States.

Gold said she never told her children about her experiences during the war until the Shoah Foundation contacted her. The foundation, established by Steven Spielberg, is dedicated to videotaping and archiving interviews of Holocaust survivors around the world.

“I’m 78 years old and the only survivor of my town,” Gold said. “I have the obligation to speak in their behalf. We have to stand up against anything that is evil.”

Every time she tells her story, Gold said, she feels she survived for a purpose.

“It is important to speak out so people can be educated so, hopefully, another Holocaust will ever happen again.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].