Sunday, January 25, 2009

Romanian Holocaust survivor from Aventura to address United Nations

A South Florida Holocaust survivor will tell her story of the Romanian Holocaust at the United Nations. BY ELINOR J. BRECHER

Each year, the United Nations holds an International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust.

This year it's on Tuesday, and the theme is ``An Authentic Basis for Hope: Holocaust Remembrance and Education.''

Taking the podium before the keynote speaker -- Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council at the State of Israel's Holocaust memorial -- is Aventura's Ruth Glasberg Gold.

''We would like you to share your story of survival, including your experiences at the camp at Bershad and your struggle to bring the plight of the Jews of Transnistria camps to light,'' a letter of invitation reads. ``Your remarks should last approximately 15 minutes.''

Fifteen minutes, to educate 1,500 people in the Trusteeship Council Chamber about what Gold, 78, calls ''an obscure episode'' in Holocaust history.

`ALMOST UNKNOWN'

''The Romanian Holocaust is almost unknown,'' she said. ``Transnistria means nothing to anybody, even to Jews from Romania.''

Transnistria, in western Ukraine, was part of the Soviet Union. There were no gas chambers in the camps there, no numbers tattooed on inmates' arms. They were left to starve, freeze or die of disease.

The retired nurse -- who last worked at Florida International University's North Campus student clinic -- will note the day's particular personal significance.

``January 27 is the same date in 1942 that I was left an orphan alone in the world.''

That day, her mother died, as had Gold's father and brother.

The same day in 1945, Soviet troops liberated the death camp Auschwitz.

Einat Temkin, assistant public information officer for the UN's Holocaust Outreach program, said event organizers knew of Gold because of her book, Ruth's Journey: A Survivor's Memoir (University Press of Florida, 1996) and because ``she's rather well known as being a good speaker and being very moving.''

FORCED OUT

Gold's story begins in Romania's Bukovina region, in the city of Czernowitz. In 1941, Romanian soldiers and German Nazis marched into town and massacred 2,000 Jews.

The ruling Romanian fascists forced Jewish residents into a ghetto.

Gold, then 11, and her family, survived a bone-chilling, two-week march to the town of Bershad, where a concentration camp was established.

Her parents and brother soon died, and during the next three years, Gold endured sub-human conditions, fed only corn mush once a day.

SUPPORT GROUP

Liberated in 1944, she went to a refugee camp in Yugoslavia, then a detention camp on Cyprus, then to Palestine, which became Israel in 1948.

She married, moved to Colombia, and came to the United States in 1972. In 1990, she co-founded the Child Survivors Support Group of Florida, which still meets.

Now widowed, she has two children and two grandchildren, all of whom will be in Tuesday's audience.

''The child survivors are the last ones left to tell the story, and we are slowly dying out,'' she said. ``We returned from the abyss and survived to speak the unspeakable.''

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