CLEVELAND — Erika Gold said she often looks back at old family photos.
“This was my parents' wedding picture,” Gold said.
It’s her way of keeping her family members’ spirits and stories alive.
“This is my grandparents' home in Galanta,” Gold remembered.
Gold said 45 members of her family died in the Holocaust. In a group photo of her family, she circled the face of the only person who survived in that picture.
“I’m the only one,” Gold said.
She added that looking back at her family pictures makes her sad. But she uses them anyways to educate younger generations in northeast Ohio about the horrors that her family faced while Nazi German forces occupied Hungary.
“People need to know what happened and to be able to see the signs,” Gold said.
Gold said she visits local schools and volunteers at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage to share her experience.
“What they have done in Poland in five years, they accomplished in Hungary in less than two months, which is really almost impossible,” Gold said. “But, they did it.”
When the occupation began, Gold said she didn’t know what was going on because of her young age.
“We knew that our freedom was less and less every day. But, we didn't know the end [and] what they were trying to do to us at that point. That came out later,” Gold said.
Gold said many of her able-bodied family members were sent to labor and concentration camps.
“Like, my dad was in [a] forced labor camp. There were only women, children and old people in that in town,” Gold said.
Gold’s mom worked at a military uniform factory. She said the two slept on the floor of the factory until the Nazis called in women of working-age.
“We had, of course, no idea where we were going. Some [of us] were on trucks, some people were on trucks, other people were walking, and we were walking around Budapest all day and all along not knowing where we going to end up.”
On the truck, Gold said a split-second decision saved her life.
“We finally arrived to a very busy marketplace. It was a Friday afternoon, getting dusk, and the Nazis said, ‘We’re going to stop here. Nobody should get out of line or get off the trucks,' [and] with that, the truck we were on stopped. My mother jumped off. She winked at me. I jumped after her and we walked away,” Gold said.
Gold credits heroic people like her Catholic housekeeper who hid them in her house to keep them safe after their escape.
“I mean, when I look back, what could've happened to me? ... It's a miracle that I survived,” Gold said.
She said she also is thankful for her mother’s maternal instinct. That is the reason why she said she can continue to teach stories from this tragic time.
“I had a smart, gutsy mother. I had absolutely nothing to do with surviving. The only one thing I did [was] when she winked at me, I followed her,” Gold said.