The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Holocaust Survivor visits Grinnell, Grandson

Until seventh grade, Jacob Goldsmith ’13 thought that his grandfather was just like any other pharmacist from St. Louis. It wasn’t until he was assigned a project to create a video about the Holocaust that he discovered that Guenter Goldsmith is a survivor.

Holocaust survivor Guenter Goldsmith speaks to students in the ARH auditorium on Sept. 12. Goldsmith is the grandfather of Jacob Goldsmith '13. Photograph by Roni Finkelstein.

“[Because] we had Holocaust class in school I became really interested in it,” Goldsmith said. “When I found out that my grandfather had survived the Holocaust, he offered to do an interview with us for our film.”

Until that interview, Guenter Goldsmith had not spoken about his experience before and during World War II publicly.

“I didn’t talk about it until nine years ago.  [Jacob and his classmates] interviewed me for the movie then we all went to the Holocaust Museum in St. Louis and that’s when I started talking about it,” said G. Goldsmith.

J. Goldsmith and his family have had close ties to the museum since then.  G. Goldsmith acts as one of 11 regular speakers and Jacob Goldsmith interned there over the summer.

“I transcribed and read a lot of interviews, I organized some things and I interviewed people,” said J. Goldsmith.  “[The museum] is going to compile all of it in either a book form or on a website where you can go and look at all the stories.”

This internship was the perfect transition into his German Literary Studies class taught by Professor Jennifer Michaels. During the course, students read histories, testimonies,and literary responses to the Holocaust.  J. Goldsmith knew that he could connect his experience over the summer to Michaels’ course.

“I emailed Professor Michaels over the summer to see if there was room for [my grandfather] to speak and it just kind of fit in to place,” J. Goldsmith said.

“When I teach the course I try to get someone to come to talk about the Holocaust,” Michaels said. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.  So this is even nicer because there is that Grinnell connection,”

G. Goldsmith spoke to Professor Michaels’ class in the ARH auditorium at an event on Sept. 21.  Students then had the opportunity to ask him questions about his experience and opinions about the Holocaust.

Born in Germany, G. Goldsmith arrived in St. Louis in 1941 at the age of 15, never to see his mother and father again. He lived with an adopted family until graduating from high school and joining the army’s 17th airborne division.

“I volunteered to become a paratrooper [after being drafted] because I found out that I would certainly end up fighting in Europe,” G. Goldsmith explained. “Before we came back to the United States, my commanding general was nice enough to lend me a Jeep and a driver so that I could go to the towns that I used to live in.  I went there looking for Jews.”

Though he knew that his search would be unsuccessful, G. Goldsmith was satisfied with his time overseas.

“I was on a mission to go back there and I had a purpose to be there,” he said. “I was lucky enough to get into Germany and be one of the first Americans there.”

Though his early life was affected by the Holocaust, G. Goldsmith has never let it hinder his motivation.  After the war, he went on to college and pharmacy school, eventually opening his own pharmacy in St. Louis.

“I retired 20 years ago, but the name is still Goldsmith Pharmacy, they haven’t changed it,” G. Goldsmith said. “I don’t think that [the Holocaust] affected me as a person.  I lived my life the way I wanted to live my life. The minute I came here I was an American, and I’ve been an American ever since.”

Now, at the age of 85, G. Goldsmith talks to high schools, churches and other groups in order share his story. Though he speaks openly about his past, some survivors prefer not to.

“Some people just don’t want to relive that horror. I mean, you have to get on with your life,” Professor Michaels said.

It took G. Goldsmith a long time to open up about his past, yet he is still sharing long after his interview for his grandson’s middle school video project. Today, G. Goldsmith continues to inspire his grandson.

“He’s definitely helped me to understand where I am in this world in the sense of what I want to do,” J. Goldsmith said.

View Comments (2)
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (2)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • N

    Nathaniel WengerSep 25, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Civilocity is a form of government that makes sure the leader of a country never again covers up unlawful behavior going on. How do you like what I share? Imagine what my girl friend gets.

  • G

    Gloria BenderSep 24, 2011 at 11:34 am

    As Jacob’s maternal grandmother,I am so proud of both Jacob and Guenther. They
    inspired each other. Jacob’s inquiry helped Guenther to share his experiences that he had locked away for many years. It is up to the younger generation to learn about history through the eyewitness accounts of the older generation.
    Good article!