Etka Goldenberg

"Try to have a full understanding for people who look different, act differently, or have a different religion than you. We are ALL G-d’s creatures!"

Name at birth
Etka Roth
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Tluste, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Zelig, Sold building supplies and heating coal
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Berta Koch, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents and four children: Joseph, Herman, me and Julius
How many in entire extended family?
Close to 80, with four aunts and uncles in Europe and four more in the United States, along with their families
Who survived the Holocaust?
My mother, two of my brothers, an aunt and her baby, and me
I was 13 years old when the German army occupied Poland. We were immediately barred from attending school.  Then they began to come to our houses to steal our valuables.  They put the Jews to work, mainly removing snow manually from the streets and fixing the roads.  I vividly remember the day that my father’s hands were so frozen and bleeding after shoveling.  I tried to bandage his hand and I remember he said to me, "Don't worry, Etka, Hitler takes the Jews this way too."  During this time, I was lucky to be working for a land owner in his gardens.  Sometimes the man who was in charge would allow me to take a couple of potatoes home.  It was a much easier job than the boys had.

After about eight months, they formed a ghetto in our town.  This ghetto did not have walls like the other ghettos had.  It was very crowded, with five families in a little apartment. There was limited water and food available, and gas leaked out of the pipes into the apartment. Typhoid set in rapidly, and many people got very ill; many died. We spent two years living in the ghetto, struggling and working so hard, and then we found out that we were going to be sent to a camp.  My older brothers were taken immediately.  My father stayed nearby traded the family jewelry to buy them out of the camp, rescuing them from the terrible work handling heavy, hot stones that burned their hands.  

During a German aktion, I was almost sent to Auschwitz.  I was herded with others to a large area and then marched to the train station.  At the last minute, the owner of the farm on which I had been working, pulled me off the ramp of the train.  He pretended to force me to go back to work and actually rescued me.  None of the people that were on that train survived.

When they emptied out the ghetto, I was taken to a camp called Rozanuwka with my father and my two older brothers.  My mother and little brother went into hiding, because my little brother was so young that he would have been put to death.  There was a Polish man who used to work for my dad, named Vladio. My father treated him like a son all his life, and in return Vladio took in my mother and brother.  He also ended up hiding my aunt and my cousin.

We lived among the dirt, and the mice and lice under terrible conditions.  We were barely fed, counted every day, and forced to work very hard.  I got very sick with typhoid fever during the summer. My father knew that if I was left in the barracks I would be put to death, so he hid me outside, even though other people thought he was crazy to do that. 

There was one time when we were driven from the camp by the Germans.  We ran into the fields, and they began to shoot everyone randomly.  After they left, I was left alive, and did not know what to do, or where to go.  So I returned to the camp!  No one knew where my father and brother were; they were not in the camp, but their bodies were not found nearby either.  

As it ended up, they walked in the dark to a nearby town where a Ukrainian man that my father knew hid them for a short time.  Next they went to the town where my grandparents lived, and found a neighbor to hide them.  They lived in the attic over the stable, where they died in a fire, which was a big puzzle.  The owner claimed that a lamp tipped over, causing the fire, but there is no way a fire like that came from a lamp.  My other brother returned to our town, where he hid with my mother.  The owner of the house never knew that he had joined the rest of my family in that house.

I was in the camp until March 23, 1944 when the Russians liberated us.  I then went back to Tluste.  A week later, the Russians retreated, and the Germans came back.  We were forced to leave, and a group of about 100 survivors marched to Romania, where we lived and worked for about six months. 

After Poland was liberated, we returned to a town called Kattowice.  This is where I met my husband and we lived together for one year in Braslow, after which we immigrated to Paris.  We lived there for almost five years and it was a wonderful life there.


Name of Ghetto(s)
Name of Concentration / Labor Camp(s)
Where did you go after being liberated?
My husband and I decided to leave for Paris and we loved every minute of it
When did you come to the United States?
In 1951, I came to Detroit after my uncle who lived here found us and arranged for our immigration here to Detroit after my uncle who lived here found us and arranged for our immigration here
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
Occupation after the war
Student, Homemaker
When and where were you married?
October 14, 1945 in Kattowice
Herman Goldenberg, Haberdasher
Zygi, consultant; is married and lives in Seattle; Susan Feldman, lives here and has three children
Hannah, Max, and Vanessa
What do you think helped you to survive?
My will to live and survive no matter what! My father told me that my survival means that I have to speak for the voices of those that we lost, those that can't be heard. If their voice is lost, then this Holocaust could happen again.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Try to have a full understanding for people who look different, act differently, or have a different religion than you. We are ALL G-d’s creatures!
Charles Silow
Interview date:

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