A powerful story that may change your life Here’s a secret about people in the news business. While readers sometimes assume we’re callous and opportunistic, we’re often deeply affected by the news we report.
I remember the first murder I covered. After I’d gotten the necessary facts for a story – the who, what, when, where and why, after I talked to some of the neighbors and friends for color – I sat on the curb outside the victim’s house for over an hour, weeping at the horrific act and the tragic loss of life. The story, and the vision of that young mother’s body being wheeled out of her home on a gurney while her children and neighbors watched helplessly from the driveway, haunted my dreams for months. When I thought about the man who pulled the trigger, I learned something very dark about myself. I learned that I’m a very vengeful person – I wanted that man to pay with his life – and that knowledge frightened me.
That was the first time the news of the day hit me where I lived, taught me something about myself, or made me rethink my most closely held beliefs, but it wasn’t the last.
In almost 30 years in the business, I’ve never gone home at the end of the day unchanged. Sometimes I’m angry over stories about corruption and greed. Sometimes, especially when the news involves the death of young people, I’m despondent. My feet drag. The world looks gray. Sometimes, when the news is positive, when we’ve done a good story about someone who’s made the world a better place, or a person who has overcome daunting challenges to thrive and prosper, I’m uplifted. For days afterward, there’s a spring in my step and a smile on my face.
Sometimes, a story is so powerful it actually changes my philosophy of life and affirms my belief in a higher power.
That was the case last week, when reporter Jessica Smith wrote a story for Greater Media’s newspaper the Sentinel about Murray Goldfinger, a Monroe Township resident who faced a host of atrocities in the Holocaust and not only survived them, but went on to live the most full and exemplary life imaginable.
I won’t recount the entire story here, because I can’t do it justice. Our story is available on our newspaper Web site, www.gmnews.com, and I strongly recommend that if you don’t receive the Sentinel, you take the time to read it. When you reach our main page, just click the Sentinel button on the left, and once you reach the Sentinel page, type Murray Goldfinger into the search engine.
In brief, Goldfinger was a young man in Poland when the Nazis came to his family’s village in trucks and changed their lives forever. Goldfinger and some of his siblings were taken away to camps where they died or were murdered; other family members were slaughtered immediately. At the end of the war, only Murray Goldfinger remained alive to remember that family and tell its story.
The tale of his own survival is one of coincidence, luck, heroism, perseverance and hope. If it hadn’t actually happened, the chain of events that led to his survival would be unbelievable.
He was an inmate in some of the most infamous Nazi work and concentration camps of the war. While five of his sisters died at Belzec, at 15, Goldfinger was a slave laborer in the Roznov camp. There, he escaped certain death on a guard’s whim. Later, he lived in the Tarnov ghetto, facing brutal conditions and starvation. He was transported to yet another camp, where a Nazi threatened to shoot him because he believed Goldfinger had eaten biscuits intended for the Nazi’s dog.
At that camp, Plaszow, he met Amon Goeth, the barbaric commander who murdered Jews for sport, and was a main character in Steven Spielberg’s “Schind-ler’s List.” At that camp, he was given 25 lashes with a whip made of hard wires for the “crime” of using the bathroom more than once during the day.
Still later, he was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenow, where he not only met but was treated by Dr. Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death who determined who would live and who would die, and who performed unspeakable “experiments” on the camp’s inmates.
It was there, in Auschwitz, that Goldfinger had his closest scrape with death. Working with a shovel with a broken handle, Goldfinger attracted the attention of a guard who accused him of sabotage for breaking the shovel. As punishment, the guard told him to turn away so that he could be shot. When the guard fired, however, the bullet struck Goldfinger’s skull at such an angle that the bullet was deflected downward into his shoulder. Although fully conscious when he fell, Goldfinger survived by playing dead so the guard would not shoot him a second time.
Still later in the war, he was transferred on the infamous Death March to Buchenwald, where he was finally liberated by the American Army on April 10, 1945. On that day, Goldfinger and another group of prisoners had been taken into the woods by the Nazis for execution, and were miraculously saved when an Amer-ican plane flew overhead and frightened the killers away.
After the war, Goldfinger lived first in Switzerland, then came to America. He married, worked in the meat business in Morristown, and raised three daughters. Today, he spends part of his time telling his story so that others will remember and learn from the past, while always looking toward a brighter future.
Since I first read his remarkable tale, I have come to believe Goldfinger must have been spared by a higher power to tell that story, so that it would not die, so that we could learn important truths in its telling. I know it affected and changed my life. I think it may change yours as well.
Gregory Bean is executive editor of Greater Media Newspapers. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.