Martin Goldsmith of Kensington, Maryland, never got to meet his grandparents, but he feels connected to them all the same.
The 68-year-old is the son of flutist Gunther Goldschmidt and violinist Rosemarie Goldschmidt, and the only living relative of Gunther’s parents, Alex and Toni Goldschmidt, who died in the Holocaust. Fortunately, Martin now holds a priceless piece of their lives that was torn away from them nearly 86 years ago.
Before the Nazis’ rise to power, Alex ran Haus der Mode, a women’s clothing store in Oldenburg, Germany. Business was so good that he was able to buy a large home for his family of six, which they filled with paintings, sculptures, and other pieces of art.
Sadly, beginning in 1932, the Nazis took everything from the Goldschmidts, as they did to many other Jewish families.
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Alex was forced to sell their house for $10,000 — a fraction of its worth. As more and more freedoms were stripped away from the Jews, so too were the Goldschmidt family’s beloved heirlooms, including a 16th-century kettle. They were coerced into selling it for a mere $11, though it’s worth thousands today.
In 1939, Alex and his son Helmut tried to escape the country on the S.S. St. Louis, a ship destined for Cuba, with other Jewish refugees. Eventually, Martin would write a book about their journey, “Alex’s Wake,” which ends with the pair returning to Germany after their vessel was turned away.
Three years later, Alex and Helmut died in the Auschwitz concentration camp. That same year, Toni and her daughter Eva were killed in a forest near Latvia.
Gunther, Alex’s other son and Martin’s father, survived because he was part of Jüdischer Kulturbund, an orchestra comprised of Jewish musicians, which, at the time, the Nazis allowed.
There, he met a woman named Rosemarie, who was a member as well. The two of them soon fell in love and fled to the U.S., where Gunther changed his name to George Goldsmith. The couple raised two sons, and today, Martin is the only surviving member of their family.
Throughout his life, Martin has only had photographs to remember his grandparents by… until now!
In April, he received an email from Dr. Marcus Kenzler, a researcher and cultural scientist at the State Museum for Art and Cultural History in Oldenburg. Part of Marcus’ work includes returning Nazi-stolen objects to relatives of their rightful owners, and he found Alex and Toni’s kettle! He reached out to Martin, and by October, Martin was able to hold his grandparents’ precious possession for the first time.
“There are very few things in the known universe that my grandparents touched,” Martin told The Washington Post. “It was a semi-miraculous opportunity to touch something they had touched; to hold something they had held.”
Every night, he is grateful to have the double-ended cauldron to feel close to his family.
In a letter he wrote to the researcher who reunited him with the priceless memento, he said, “Though born decades after the Nazi era, you have not shirked from the responsibility of facing up to the horrors of those years but rather have done what you can to try to balance the scales of justice, impossible though that task may ultimately be.”
What an incredible way to honor the Goldschmidts’ memory! The kettle couldn’t have made its way into better hands. Martin will cherish this gift for the rest of his life!
Share this beautiful story in honor of all the families who lost loved ones to the Holocaust.
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