France awards restitution to Gulfport Holocaust survivor

- The Holocaust is among the darkest times in world history. Six million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime.

Now, more than seven decades later, an 85-year-old Gulfport woman is being awarded a large settlement from the French government. It's being paid to Holocaust survivors or their heirs, living in the U.S., for France's role in shipping tens of thousands to death camps.

Betty Goldberg was just 9-years-old when her childhood was ripped away. 

"Oh, I knew what was going on, believe me," Goldberg said.

Her parents were from Poland. She was born in France. And in 1940, the Nazis invaded.

"My father received a letter from city hall saying that they wanted to check his papers," Goldberg said. "They arrested him there. They sent him to a camp."

Betty and her mother learned he'd be shipped to Auschwitz. They assumed he'd be killed.

"A few months later, there was a knock on the door," Goldberg said. "And, I opened the door, and I let out a scream, 'papa!' There was my father. He looked like a skeleton, head shaven, and he had a tattoo with a number, but he was alive."

He was spared only because a camp commander liked they way he sang.

"It took him quite a while to, you know, readjust," Goldberg recalled.

Her father suffered nightmares - and so did she - of the times she hid from officers, praying she'd stay alive.

"Sometimes, I still have nightmares," Goldberg said. "I was living such terror."

Her father was among 76,000 French Jews stuffed into trains, operated by the state-owned French railway. Only about 2,000 survived.

In 2015, the French government created a $60 million dollar restitution fund, going to Holocaust survivors living in the U.S., who were sent on those trains. If they had died, as Goldberg's father did in 2005, it would go to their heirs. Betty just learned she'd be awarded a significant amount of money.

"It's gonna help me. Oh, sure," Goldberg said. "But, whatever they gave me will never compensate for what I went through, really."

While she can't rewrite history, Betty is using that money for good. She's donating $10,000 to the Holocaust Survivor Program run by Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services

"We have all these incredible people that are our heroes," said Debbie Cusick, a Case Manager Supervisor with the program. "We work with them daily. They inspire us. They do more for us than we do for them."

They're memories from a dark time in her life and millions of others. But Betty hopes the stories of the Holocaust are never forgotten.

"History could repeat itself, unfortunately," Goldberg said. "I'm thankful that I stayed alive, that my mother and my aunt and my grandmother stayed alive also. We were all hidden."

This settlement money will allow Betty to stay in her own home and continue receiving 24/7 care. And, while her gift is a huge help to Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Community Services, there is a great need in the Tampa Bay area. There are 260 Holocaust survivors registered in Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Citrus Counties.

 

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