Holocaust Isn't Fiction to Survivors

This editorial by an ABC News producer was first published by the Chicago Tribune on Dec. 18, 2006.

I wish the participants perpetuating the denial of the Holocaust who gathered in Tehran last week could have met my mother.

Every night, for nearly 70 years, her dream was always the same. A terrified, 14-year-old girl would be on a platform in Vienna embracing her mother not knowing if it was for the last time ... and then, the train would pull out.

Many nights as a boy, and not long ago during a visit, I heard her crying in her sleep, calling out to her mother, "Mutti, Mutti!" She was on that platform, reliving the unbearable pain of that day; a child separated from her mother.

My mother, Anita Sommer Goldberg, was a Holocaust survivor whose journey took her from Austria to wartime London to postwar Mexico City and finally to a small town in Indiana where for more than 50 years she became a pillar of the Jewish community.

Several weeks ago, she died after a long illness. She was 82 years old.

As a dear friend described her, Mom was "Little Bo Peep with an Uzi;" a force of nature with an astonishing memory for everything that happened in her life. Everything.

She would have given the folks in Tehran an earful.

Thanks to Steven Spielberg, she can. In 1998, she was interviewed for the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation project, an extraordinary video archive of Holocaust survivors largely funded by the director after making the film "Schindler's List."

After my mother's funeral two weeks ago, I watched all seven hours of the Shoah project. There she was, healthy then, laughing, crying, recalling in astounding detail the smells, sounds and events of her childhood. Gazing at the television screen, it's hard to believe my mother--as the revisionists would claim--was a pathological liar.

It was 1938 when the Nazis walked into Austria and Mom's world crumbled around her. Her father, Moses Sommer, informed that he would be arrested by the Gestapo, fled east into the Soviet Union, ending up in the Shanghai ghetto.

For seven years, she wouldn't know if her father was dead or alive.

Determined to save her children from the mounting horrors of the Nazi occupation, her mother, Adela--an invincible spirit herself--placed Mom, along with her sister Lily, on a train for England. The rescue of Jewish children was known as the Kindertransport. It was the defining moment of my mother's life.

She survived the London bombings and after seven years was joyously reunited with her mother, who had fled to Mexico City. They later found her father through a message board. Uncles, aunts, cousins had perished, but miraculously the Sommers survived.

Later in life, Mom lectured about her experience, often to schoolchildren, emphasizing the need to "never forget."

Many of those children wrote her thank-you notes. Her favorite was from one boy who wrote: "Thank you so much. I always dreamed of meeting a Holocaust survivor." It made her laugh. I used to kid her that I always dreamed of having a Holocaust survivor as a mom.

Mom did survive. Boy did she. She never let those early years consume her (except in her dreams).

No, Mom was irrepressible. She put her head up and went on. Everyday she went on with verve and determination in every aspect of her life ... in love, in family, in work and in community.

I'd like to see these latest purveyors of false history in Tehran deny any part of my mother's story.

They can't.

She didn't make it up.

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