He survived the Lodz Ghetto and Auschwitz concentration camp and wants nothing more than to ensure the lessons of the Holocaust are listened to and learnt from. Which is why Abram Goldberg shares his experiences with anyone he meets, and it’s why he has written his new book, The Strength of Hope.
Goldberg has lived in Melbourne for 71 years. He married his true love and together, they raised their two children. He is passing on his father’s teachings of positivity to them.
Goldberg’s son Charlie described his father as being a stickler for the “facts and sequences,” so the Goldberg family worked with Fiona Harris, who co-authored the book, to get Abram in touch with his feelings when discussing some of the heinous things he experienced and saw during the Holocaust.
The family hoped to create what will be a time capsule of Goldberg’s life, and an enduring guide to love and life from someone who has experienced a lot of both.
Goldberg described the process of writing the book as a difficult one. Harris would come over to his house to record him talking about his life and his experiences in the ghetto and camps, after which she would then go away and write.
“The most important thing for me was capturing his authentic tone and voice,” Harris explained.
The strategy they used to encourage Goldberg to “loosen” up, was, according to Charlie, a few shots of Polish vodka at 11am before they started on some of the more difficult chapters and stories.
Luckily, as Harris said, “It worked!”
The Strength of Hope also features chapters from Goldberg’s wife Cesia, with Harris explaining that her parts were transcribed almost word for word.
When talking about Cesia’s memories in the novel, Goldberg beamed, saying that “her personality shines through”.
Harris explained that there were times during the writing process when she had to walk away from her desk.
“I can’t write when I’m that emotional,” she said.
“We’re very lucky that we didn’t have to live in it 24/7 like Abram did and we can walk away from it, but it was very emotional,” she said, adding “It’s incomprehensible to us what he went through.”
Despite this, both Harris and Goldberg wanted to make The Strength of Hope “the sort of book that young people will pick up and read and it will be digestible,” she explained.
“My aim was always to make it easy for people to understand,” Goldberg agreed.
Goldberg was born in Lodz, Poland in 1924 and endured some of the most unimaginable horrors. When asked about them, Goldberg often exclaimed, “Don’t even try because the human mind can’t even try to imagine how it was actually.”
The memoir explores and memorialises his family, most of whom were killed by the Nazis.
In Lodz 34 per cent of the population was Jewish and at the time it was the second biggest city in Poland after Warsaw.
The ghetto in Lodz was the second largest in all German-occupied Europe after the Warsaw Ghetto.
When asked if it was difficult to discuss his time in the Lodz Ghetto, Goldberg simply said that it was, but you figure out how.
“It’s always hard to talk about but I have learnt how,” he said.
In one of the chapters in The Strength of Hope, Goldberg explains that he and his mother were on the second last train out of the ghetto when they were deported to Auschwitz.
On arrival at one of the most notorious death camps in the history of the war, Goldberg and his mother spoke their last words to each other.
“Abram, do everything humanly possible to survive. And when you do, wherever you find yourself, you must tell people what happened here so it can never happen again,” his mother Chaja told him, to which he replied, “I promise.”
He has unequivocally fulfilled his promise, having been volunteering at the Melbourne Holocaust Museum since 1984, and he still remains a member of the executive board.
All royalties from The Strength of Hope will be donated to the Melbourne Holocaust Museum.
Goldberg told The AJN that talking about the events of the Holocaust and now writing about them is the “mission in my life”.
In Melbourne the Goldbergs live a life full of Jewish and Yiddish culture, never straying far from their roots.
“I’m not religious, I don’t ask anybody to convert to Judaism, but I want to die what I am, what I was born,” Goldberg explained.
“I have already lived a life so much fuller and happier than I could ever have imagined in my wildest dreams, and with a woman who I love with all my heart,” he said.
“I am proud that I have never given into hatred. Instead, I choose to live each day to the fullest and to try and spread joy and hope to everyone I meet.
“Eighty-three years after the Nazi invasion of Poland, that is my greatest resistance.”
The Strength of Hope is published by Affirm, $32.99 rrp