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July 14, 2017  RSS feed
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Holocaust survivor collects rare settlement; donates a portion to help others


From left: Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services staff members Debra Cusick and Cindy Minetti look on as Marlene Wain, Gulf Coast case manager, holds a check from Holocaust survivor Betty Goldberg, with daughter Renee Arnold by her side. From left: Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services staff members Debra Cusick and Cindy Minetti look on as Marlene Wain, Gulf Coast case manager, holds a check from Holocaust survivor Betty Goldberg, with daughter Renee Arnold by her side. As a Jewish child in France in the 1940s, Betty Goldberg lived in terror, constantly afraid of what the knock on the door would mean.

A Gentile man who had befriended her father before he was shipped off on a train to Auschwitz hid her. She had to live under an assumed name and carry false papers, but she survived as, miraculously, did her parents.

In the years since, Goldberg has lived a calm, comfortable life, working at the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., and spending time with her family and friends. She never expected anything more, but at age 85, she got a pleasant surprise.

“I never knew I could get a settlement. I couldn’t believe it,” said Goldberg, referring to the large sum of money awarded her by the French Railroad Fund.

Betty Goldberg Betty Goldberg The $60 million fund was established to compensate Holocaust survivors or families of the estimated 76,000 Jews who were transported to concentration camps via France’s railway between 1942-1944. Goldberg’s father was one of the lucky 2,000 or so who survived.

Goldberg applied for the settlement with the assistance of Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services and in the spirit of “paying it forward,” she donated $10,000 back to the agency to help other survivors.

The saga for Goldberg and her family began in 1941 when Betty was 9 years old. Goldberg’s father was ordered by authorities to city hall in Paris to review his citizenship, and he never came back.

Her father was taken to a nearby internment camp named Pithiviers, where French residents were allowed to use prisoners as day laborers. Goldberg’s father made friends with the stationmaster who took him out of the camp every day to feed him instead of making him work.

When it became clear that Goldberg’s father was going to be deported, he asked the stationmaster to look after his daughter and wife. The stationmaster hid Betty in his home and her mom with a friend.

Meanwhile, Goldberg’s father was transported to Auschwitz. “He sang to survive,” said Goldberg, “The guards liked his voice so they would have him sing and then toss him a piece of bread.”

After Allied forces liberated the camp, Goldberg was reunited with her father in 1946. “I thought he was dead,” she said.

Goldberg and her cousin moved to United States in 1951 and then Goldberg’s parents followed in 1953. Goldberg worked at the French Embassy as a secretary in Washington, D.C., and moved to Gulfport after she retired.

When she got a call from the Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services a year ago, she didn’t know what they wanted.

Holocaust Survivor Case Manager Marlene Wain was the one who contacted Goldberg and worked tirelessly on her case.

“We get notifications when there are opportunities for restitution by the Claims Conference,” said Wain. “Betty was the only survivor in our database who qualified for the French Railroad Fund.”

The fund was established specifically to compensate those who settled in the U.S., Israel, Canada and other countries that did not have a prior reparations agreement with France. It’s also the first World War II reparations program to include heirs considered to be “standing in the shoes” of people who died before receiving compensation for the atrocities they endured, the State Department told the Washington Post last year.

As of last September, about 700 had applied for compensation through the fund.

Wain said that the process of getting Goldberg’s settlement began in January 2016 and she was finally awarded the money in May 2017.

“There was a lot of back in forth,” said Wain. There were many papers and documents needed from Goldberg to prove she was eligible for the settlement.

Then, after almost a year, Goldberg got word that she had received the largest settlement ever achieved by the Gulf Coast. The agency and Goldberg declined to specify how much.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Goldberg, “I was so happy.”

Once Goldberg received the settlement she decided to donate $10,000 back to the organization that helped her get it.

“I know that there are some Jews who need the money,” said Goldberg at a ceremony announcing the donation last month at Gulf Coast’s Clearwater headquarters.

She hopes that the money she donated will help other Holocaust survivors get settlements for their families.

Goldberg, a widow with one daughter, plans to use the majority of the remaining funds for her medical expenses and her 24/7 home health care.

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