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Thread by @stephenablack: "This is my grandfather, Murray Goldfinger. The tattoo, 161108, was given to him at Birkenau. He's 91 and his health is failing. He told his […]" #NeverAgain #HolocaustRemembranceDay #OurStory

, 35 tweets, 14 min read
This is my grandfather, Murray Goldfinger. The tattoo, 161108, was given to him at Birkenau.

He's 91 and his health is failing. He told his tale of survival for 65 years. Now, I've taken the responsibility.

One part of his story always gets a big reaction from students.
January 1945. Murray (born Monek) was on The Death March west from Birkenau as Russian soldiers advanced from the east.

He was tired, cold, and hungry. He saw something in the air, descending towards him.

It hit him in the chest, and he caught it.

A 2-lb piece of roast beef.
Monek was shocked. He looked around. Nobody had noticed, so he stuffed it under his shirt.

Over the next two days, he tore small pieces and ate them on the sly.

When I told the story to a group of eighth graders today, they all laughed.

"Was it a gift from Heaven?" I asked.
The reality is bleaker.

The Nazis rode in tanks and jeeps alongside the march. One probably thought it'd be funny to toss the food into the crowd and watch the Jews fight over it.

It wouldn't have been the first time Monek witnessed Nazis take pleasure in torturing the Jews.
It didn't work out that way. The marchers were too fatigued, many dying along the way.

Monek was lucky. The roast beef's trajectory led straight to him.

I can trace my own existence back to that piece of meat, which sustained Monek and gave him the energy to keep going.
His entire family including 8 siblings perished. Monek survived.

On April 11th, 1945, he was liberated from Buchenwald. We celebrate the date as a birthday, or Rebirth Day.

The path from ghettos to labor camps to concentration camps lasted 6 years, but it began before that.
It began with leaders who had an insidious agenda. They understood the people needed a scapegoat, a group of "others," an outlet for fear and hatred.

They chipped away at the Jews' humanity piece by piece until they became numbers then ashes. Much of the world stood idly by.
I will not stand by as people in our nation are targeted for their "otherness."

I am inspired by the younger generation's activism as they say #NeverAgain to needless death.

Monek was compelled to tell his story to show the darkness we're capable of when hatred goes unchecked.
His path to the U.S. wasn't easy. He was only allowed to immigrate after a distant relative won a small fortune in the lottery and sponsored him.

He rebuilt his life and has lived to see the birth of two great-grandchildren.
I will continue to tell his story because I know the fight is ongoing.

It's a fight to prevent history from repeating but also to ensure that all human life is valued equally, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexuality, or ability.

#HolocaustRemembranceDay #NeverAgain
*UPDATE*

I'm incredibly moved by the response to this thread, as well as the amount of people sharing it. I just got off the phone with my grandfather, or "Poppy" as we call him, and he was in tears when I told him how many positive responses his story is receiving.
I'm grateful for the stories people are sharing with me of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I am going to respond to all of them in the coming days.

I've also been receiving a lot of DM requests for more material, and I will post the links here.
The first is a 7-minute film I made in college, a simple day-in-the-life portrait called "Thanksgiving."

This is his full testimony for the Shoah Foundation, recorded in 1994. It's nearly two hours, but it's worth watching if you'd like to learn more about his story.

Here's another film I made about my family's 10-day trip to Poland in 2006. It was the second time Poppy returned. The first was in 1992 with his wife Margaret (also a survivor who only spoke about her experiences twice in life), my mom, and my two aunts.

I wanted to share this message from Poppy with everyone. Thanks to my amazing mom Adele @preppy1953 for filming it today. Apologies that it ends abruptly—they were in an appointment and the doctor arrived.

The good news is Poppy’s health is stable!

*ANOTHER UPDATE*

I'm headed out to meet Poppy for dinner, where I'll read him many of your wonderful comments and DMs. I have tons to still answer, and I promise to get to them soon.

On a related note, please read this and contact me if interested!

medium.com/@stephenablack…
Tonight, I'm proud to launch the series of shared stories, #OurStory.

medium.com/@stephenablack…
In the first installment of #OurStory, @EdwardHBOh shares the history of his family, beginning in North Korea with his grandfather, a Protestant pastor.

"My grandfather’s name would appear on that log every day — until, one day, it didn’t."

medium.com/@stephenablack…
It's been a while since an #OurStory update! I've been working hard on a new piece, The Courage to Kill a Nazi. I will post it soon!

It includes stories of my grandfather, but it's mostly about Marion Pritchard, a brave Dutch rescuer who had a lifelong commitment to activism.
To continue the #OurStory series, I've written about Marion Pritchard, a Dutch rescuer of Jewish children during The Holocaust.

Her kindness and service to all people, regardless of differences, are inspiring and persisted for the rest of her life.

medium.com/@stephenablack…
I want to thank Margaret Pritchard Houston @HoustonMargaret, Marion's granddaughter, for first sharing the story with me.

I have learned and grown so much from writing about and absorbing Marion's story. Thank you, Margaret, from the bottom of my heart!

*UPDATE 1/2*

Many have inquired about Poppy's health. I asked him if I could write about what's going on and share it with the world.

"Of course," he said. "As long as you tell the truth."

It's not an easy truth to tell. I'm hoping some can relate.

medium.com/@stephenablack…
*UPDATE 2/2*

He is scheduled to get an esophageal stent on Wednesday, but he's reluctant.

If anyone has experiences you'd like to share about esophageal stents—good or bad, personal or of a loved one—please DM me.

It would be helpful for him to hear and to inform the decision.
The journey began in Wierchomla, Poland on July 6th, 1926.

Ninety-two years later, here we are.

Happy Birthday, Poppy.
I wish I had a better update on Poppy, but the last few weeks have been difficult.

"Mission accomplished" is what he's been saying lately when taking stock of his life.

I will read him all replies and DMs. Thanks to everyone for your support ❤️

medium.com/@stephenablack…
I spent the afternoon with Poppy. He’s weak and has trouble speaking, but I read him all the replies and DMs.

Even though he was waiting for some painkillers to kick in, he smiled and nodded at each.

“Beautiful,” he said about one.

“I’m proud,” he said as I was reading.
I was emotional reading your wonderful words aloud.

I told him it’s incredible his story has touched people all over the world.

When the rabbi visited, Poppy pointed to me and said, “Historian.”

The end of his journey is near. I will make sure we never forget what he survived.
Yesterday and today were rough, but Saturday he was in good spirits, surrounded by family, including his great-grandkids.

Here he is with my nephew, his great-grandson.
Poppy passed away this afternoon. The last few weeks were increasingly painful, so he's finally at peace.

I'm truly grateful for everyone's support. You've shared your and your family's stories, and they've all become a part of me.

I hope Poppy's story has become a part of you.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures with him.

He always said, "I never had a childhood, so I still feel like a child at heart."

I'm going to miss you, Poppy, but you will live on through your story. I will make sure of that. ❤️
On Aug 17, 1942, Poppy's parents were taken from the Stary Sącz ghetto into the woods and executed alongside 100 other Jews.

Today, historian @lukaspolomski organized a ceremony at the memorial at the same time as Poppy's funeral to celebrate his life.

Thank you, Łukasz.
In June 2006, I visited the memorial with Poppy and my family. It's the final scene in my documentary Travel Memory (~17:50).

When we left, it began to drizzle on an otherwise sunny day. Poppy said it was "tears from Heaven."

I wonder if it rained today.
I experienced anti-Semitism in Poland. I watched in horror recently at their attempt to criminalize declarations of Polish complicity.

Nevertheless a few kind souls persist.

My friend Beata’s family visits the memorial on all Jewish & Catholic holidays.

translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?de…
Today, we said goodbye to Poppy.

It was a celebration of his life, full of laughter and tears, with friends and family from near and far.

Here’s the way I remembered Poppy—with a promise to never forget.

medium.com/@stephenablack…
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