The Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program

René Goldman

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Born
March 25, 1934 Luxembourg City, Luxembourg

Map of Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia

Immigrated
1963 Summerland, British Columbia

René Goldman grows up entranced with the theatre, music, languages and geography. Surrounded by his parents’ love and protection, he wanders the streets and alleys of Luxembourg and then Brussels, carefree and prone to mischief. Yet as he starts hearing adults speak the words “deportation” and “resettlement,” René is forced to grapple with a strange reality. When his family flees to France, eight-year-old René is separated from both of his parents and shunted between children’s homes and convents, where he must hide both his identity and his mounting anxiety. As René waits and waits for his parents to return, even liberation day does not feel like freedom. An eloquent personal narrative detailed with historical research and commentary, A Childhood Adrift explores identity, closure, disillusionment and the anguish of silenced emotions.

About René

René Goldman was born in Luxembourg on March 25, 1934. After the war, he lived in children’s homes in Paris for five years, after which he studied in Poland for three years. In 1953, René immigrated to Beijing, studying Chinese language, literature and history for five years. In 1960, he pursued graduate studies in the Department of History and the East Asian Institute at Columbia University; he then accepted a position on the faculty of the University of British Columbia, where he completed his post-graduate studies and taught courses in Chinese history. René Goldman lives with his wife, Terry, in Summerland, BC.

Photos and Artifacts

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    René’s mother, Mira Shaindl Arenstein, and father, Wolf Goldman, on their wedding day. Luxembourg City, 1931.

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    René’s parents and their friends. René’s mother, Mira Shaindl Arenstein, is seated in front on the far left. René’s father, Wolf Goldman, is kneeling behind her. Gantenbeinsmühle, early 1930s.

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    René in the arms of his cousin Ginette. Gantenbeinsmühle, circa 1938.

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    René, centre, and his mother, Mira Shaindl Arenstein, and father, Wolf Goldman, in a public park. Luxembourg, 1939.

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    René, age 6, and his mother. Luxembourg, 1940.

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    René’s cousin Simon Domb, wearing the traditional Napoleonic uniform of the École polytechnique. Paris, circa 1940.

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    René and his parents at the wedding of Joseph Lewin, eldest son of their friend Max Lewin. René is seated on the floor on the far left. René’s mother is standing behind the woman holding flowers. René’s father is standing in the top row, far right. Brussels, 1941.

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    René, age 11. Andrésy, France, 1945.

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    René, age 12. Andrésy, France, 1946.

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    A postcard showing manoir de Denouval, which was operated by the Commission centrale de l’enfance. Andrésy, France.

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    Breakfast at Andrésy. René is holding his bowl out for more food. The children peering through the windows are from another dining room, who had likely finished their meal but had not yet been given permission to leave. Circa 1945.

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    René and students of manoir de Denouval. René is standing alone in the window frame on the top left. Adam Rayski and Marc Chagall are standing together in the centre of the second row from the back. Andrésy, 1946.

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    René is standing on the far left, leaning forward to form the letter V with his fingers over the head of his friend Evelyne, the second girl from the left in the middle row. Other friends include Elsa Zilberbogen, the third girl from the left, and Eliane Gourevitch, the fourth girl from the left. Le Raincy-Côteaux, 1947.

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    The children’s choir in Livry-Gargan. René is in the back row, standing second from the left. 1948.

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    Sophie Micnik. Nice, circa 1990.

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    René. Summerland, British Columbia, 2003.

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    René standing beside a signpost marking the entrance to Kalisz. Poland, 2003.

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    René and his wife, Terry, at Morskie Oko in the Tatra Mountains. Poland, 2003.

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    René and Terry. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, 2008.

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    René in his home study. Summerland, British Columbia, circa 2010.

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    René and his wife, Terry. Whistler, British Columbia, 2013.

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    René, his wife, Terry, and their granddaughters, Katrina and Kirsten, celebrating René’s eightieth birthday. Summerland, British Columbia, 2014.

The Book

Cover of A Childhood Adrift

A Childhood Adrift

Holding me kicking and screaming, that brute ran toward the awaiting train, past Mama, whom I saw being dragged over the floor struggling and crying. The entire station was a scene of bedlam, with men, women and children being pulled, shoved and hurled into the train….

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A Childhood Adrift

The Train

Early one morning, Mama came into the room where I had stayed overnight with Dutch friends. Roused from my sleep, I was shocked to see her in tears as she ordered me to get up and dress quickly because the police were waiting for us in front of the hotel. She pleaded with me that I should cry, so that perhaps I might soften the heart of the policemen. But strangely enough, I, who had hitherto been something of a crybaby, could not bring myself to shed a tear. I looked at Mama with pleading, frightened eyes, yet felt too numb to cry. Once out on the street we were gathered into a large crowd of Jews who had been collected from our hotel and elsewhere in town. To my further dismay, I discovered that Papa was not with us. He had gone out before the police arrived, perhaps to buy a newspaper, or could it be that he pursued a lead to a possible hiding place for us? I shall never know.

Like a lugubrious procession we were marched along the street that led to the railway station. The police chief in charge was a burly brute with a moustache like Stalin’s; he swore at us, spouted antisemitic insults and shoved and bullied our pitiful flock all the way. What awaited us when we reached the square in front of the railway station was a veritable coup de théâtre, a sudden turn of events: by an unbelievable coincidence Aunt Fella had arrived on the night train from Limoges and happened to walk out of the station at the very moment when we were brought there! I still hear her cry of astonishment, “Mon Dieu, qu’est-ce qu’il se passe?” (Oh my God, what is happening?) Then, seeing that I happened to be at the end of the queue and that the police chief had momentarily turned away from it, she pulled me by the hand whispering, “Viens, sauve-toi avec moi!” (Come, run away with me.) But I was too dumbfounded to run. A moment later the police chief turned around; he saw my aunt pull me away and raced after us, slapped my tiny, frail aunt on both cheeks, and violently seized me by the hair and the seat of my trousers. Thus holding me kicking and screaming, that brute ran inside the station and toward the awaiting train on the first platform, past Mama, whom I saw being dragged over the station floor struggling and crying. The entire station was a scene of bedlam, with men, women and children being pulled, shoved and hurled into the train….

Just as the police chief was about to throw me into the train as well, two gendarmes in khaki uniforms appeared in the nick of time to stop him. Without a word he let go of me. One of the two officers took me aside and gently pressed my head to his chest, so that I would see no more of these horrendous scenes. After a moment he turned me around, saying, “Look, your mother is in that window over there waving goodbye to you.” The train then moved. That was the last time I saw my mama.