From Israel with love. That might be the best way to describe Erna Goldman's fascinating story from the heart of Nazi Germany into the arms of her boyfriend and soulmate, Moshe Goldman. Although they are part of the lucky few who have had the chance to escape Hitler’s grasp early on, their tale of romance through harrowing adversity is part of the bigger picture of the creation of Israel.
Erna Goldman, born in 1917, was a typical Jewish girl in Germany before 1933, bright, happy and undoubtedly in love with Israel. Perhaps that would explain why she, like many others, joined a Zionist movement that was very typical of Jewish youth in Western Europe. Namely, the Blue-White youth organization whose main concern was to provide Jewish teenagers with an education in Zionist culture and ideology. Erna herself said:
“We didn’t go out to cafés, or to eat, we didn’t do that. We went hiking, we sang, and we talked a lot about Israel. “
Yet, truly, this is a different type of story, one not only about her love of Israel but also of her future husband.
In 1933, when Erna was only 16 she met her soulmate, Moshe Goldman. A Jew who had immigrated from Poland with his parents, and who lacked any formal education somehow captured her heart. This, of course unlike today, was something that was not so common. For an Eastern boy and a Western girl to be together was something that was indeed looked down upon as the stigma of poverty continually followed all Jews who immigrated to Germany to escape the drudgery of hunger from the East.
Despite what Erna’s parents thought, the truth was that the times were changing. It was 1933, in the heart of the rise of the NSDAP party, and the first signs of anti-Jewish measures were already taking place. Despite the world that was crumbling around them, Moshe and Erna began dating, from the most innocent of house visits to the occasional walk home. This, all the while Nazi parades were already emanating anti-Semitic slogans.
The effects, although slow at first, became evident and those prudent enough began to leave. Moshe and his family left for Palestine, as a few thousand did. However many stayed, in the constant belief that Hitler could not possibly harm them. This with some legitimacy as many Jews in Germany considered themselves as German as everyone else, having fought in the First World War and served their country. In fact Erna recalls how one day the German girl she used to play with in her own street throughout her childhood began to outright ignore her because she was Jewish. It was clear, Jews were no longer German.
After her father had died, Erna and her mother were fortunate enough to gain the immigration certificates necessary to part for Palestine prior to the time that the Nuremberg Laws came into effect and things became increasingly worse for Jews. Although she lived in Palestine with her brother and Moshe in Jerusalem, due to financial reasons she had to return to Frankfurt. Erna in fact says that the times were very difficult, as “things were primitive in Palestine back then”. And this was so as many who left for The Land of Israel, only returned due to the fact that there were no jobs or means to actually sustain oneself.
Between 1936 and 37, alone in Frankfurt and amid rising despondency towards Jews, Erna decided that it was better to live in poverty with Moshe than in Frankfurt where she was truly not welcomed. In the summer of 1937 she left Frankfurt for good, and that same December she married Moshe in Tel Aviv.
Erna and Moshe Goldman gettign married. 1937, Tel Aviv. Courtesy Centropa
Life was tough in the beginning, yet it was the same for all Jews who had immigrated to Israel. This did not get in the way of Erna and Moshe who started a family together, a life, and ultimately played a role in the foundation of a nation. It is their story, along with many others, that create a full and thorough picture of history. Each and every narrative, however small, is a part of the sum of Israel.