Holocaust survivor visits Yellowknife youth

Holocaust survivor René Goldman spoke with Yellowknife youth as a part of the Holocaust Survivors Memoirs Program.

By Brett McGarry

“Rene Goldman spent his childhood roaming through Europe to escape Nazi persecution. He assumed false identities, moved from city to city and lived off rationed food to survive the war that claimed his family.

Since coming to Canada in the 1960s, Goldman has spent a large portion of his life telling his story. Last week, he came to the North for the first time to speak with Yellowknife students and residents.

“I tell my story here for the same reason I would tell it anywhere,” said Goldman. “It’s important that the atrocities and the hardships are remembered.”

Rene was born in Luxembourg in 1934 but fled to France with his family at the outset of the war.

When he was eight, he was separated from his family and moved between children’s homes and convents using false identities until the end of the war, after which he learned how both his parents perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Despite the pain of reliving terrible experiences, Goldman said it must be done.

“It can be distressing to tell these stories, but I’ve done it a lot and it gets easier with time,” Goldman. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel it was important.”

Over the course of two days Goldman visited with English and French speaking students at Sir John Franklin High School.

Paul Bennett, a Northern studies teacher at the high school, helped organize the visit and said having Goldman in town was a great opportunity.

“It’s such a rare opportunity to host a speaker like this and it’s only getting more rare,” said Bennett.

Both Bennett and Goldman say the students were very responsive.

“I try to find a way to get the students to relating to the experience and through my northern studies class talk a lot about the genocide of language and culture,” said Bennett.

“I think it’s important for students to relate and hear about how these things have happened. They were very engaged and respectful

Goldman says the youth he’s met in the North and throughout the country have been very engaged with the message he’s sharing.

“The youth of today are wonderful,” said Goldman. “They are very engaged when I tell me story but also with news of today. When it comes to climate and global politics, they are more informed and active than youth of my day.”

Goldman’s memoir, A Childhood Adrift were published through the Azrieli Foundation. The non-profit foundation has a mandate to publish the memoirs of Holocaust survivors. They have published more than 80 memoirs so far.”

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