Of all the questions author Martin Goldsmith fielded at a Fort Wayne high school Monday, he described only one as sad.
What causes hate?
“I think we hate because we are afraid,” said Goldsmith, whose parents were Jewish musicians living in Nazi Germany.
Goldsmith visited New Tech Academy at Wayne High School hours before serving as guest speaker at the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne’s Yom Hashoah commemoration ceremony, which featured artwork and participation from New Tech students.
Yom Hashoah is Holocaust Remembrance Day.
This marked social studies teacher Jeff Roberts’ sixth year partnering with the Fort Wayne Jewish Federation to teach students about the Holocaust. This year, the project focused on the role of music.
Roberts’ students read Goldsmith’s books about his family’s experiences during the Holocaust and spent more than an hour asking him questions.
Afterward, senior Alexzandria Eldridge said she was thankful Goldsmith could share his touching story. Her previous knowledge about the Holocaust was limited, she said.
Asked why sharing his family’s history is important, Goldsmith cited a survey released last week that reinforces the need for more Holocaust education.
Commissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Study found 66 percent of Millennials cannot identify what Auschwitz was.
Learning about one family affected by the Holocaust can have a greater impact than learning 6 million Jews were killed, Goldsmith said.
Goldsmith’s grandfather and uncle were sent to their deaths in Auschwitz, a concentration camp complex. He wrote about them in “Alex’s Wake: A Voyage of Betrayal and a Journey of Remembrance.”
In another book, “The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany,” Goldsmith detailed the Jewish Kulturbund, an ensemble that included his parents. The all-Jewish performing arts ensemble was maintained by the Nazis between 1933 and 1941.
The Nazis used the Kulturbund as a propaganda tool to show conditions for the Jewish population couldn’t be bad if they had such a luxury, Goldsmith said.
For Jews, he said, it would give audience members a respite from daily life and provided a false sense of security for Kulturbund members. It dissolved in September 1941, and remaining members were sent to camps, he said.
He described his parents as “extraordinarily lucky” to leave Germany “just in time.” They landed on Ellis Island in June 1941 with only a few dollars and belongings between them, he said.
“Getting out of Germany was difficult,” Goldsmith said, noting the process involved gettingsponsors and travel documents.
During his family research, Goldsmith learned his uncle, at age 17, stood up to a Nazi propagandist during a school assembly. Goldsmith said he is “extraordinarily proud” of his uncle’s actions, just as he is of the Parkland, Florida, teens and others nationwide for rallying for gun control.
“I’m really proud of you,” he told the New Tech students.