Joseph Gottdenker’s miraculous survival story shared with students of Sterling Hall School
On January 30, 2018 Joseph Gottdenker, Holocaust survivor and CSYV Board Member, spoke at Sterling Hall School, to the grade 6,7 and 8 students about his experience in the Holocaust.
“If the tragedy of the Holocaust could happen once, nothing guarantees that it will not happen again. The only way to prevent the Holocaust from happening again is through education”, Joseph Gottdenker emphasized.
Joseph Gottdenker shared with students his story about Petronolo and Wladyslaw Ziolo “Righteous among the Nations” who saved him during the Holocaust. Petronolo and Wladyslaw, righteous gentiles, adopted Joseph and raised him as their own, thus risking their lives and the lives of their family. “It is a debt that can never be repaid,” Joseph states with gratitude to them. After the speech, students were given an opportunity to interact with Joseph Gottdenker during the Q&A portion of the assembly and express their thoughts about the Holocaust. As the students participated in the Q&A period, they demonstrated their critical thinking with very intriguing and well thought questions. Students were curious if Joseph spoke about the Holocaust at home and to his family, if he was in touch with his rescuer, etc… These were some of the questions raised by students.
Joseph believes it is his responsibility to share his rare experience of the Holocaust in order to pay tribute to his rescuers. Above all, Joseph sees his mission in conveying to young Canadians the following message: that freedom of choice does exist and that every individual can make a difference.
Joseph was born in 1942 in Nazi-occupied Poland. By that time, his father has already been deported to a work camp. Joseph’s mother Bina, entrusted her new-born child to Petronolo and Wladyslaw Ziolo and joined the Polish resistance. The Ziolo family adopted Joseph and raised him as their own. Joseph stayed with the adoptive family for three years until the end of the war. When the war was over, Joe reunited with his parents in Germany. The family immigrated to the United States in 1948 and to Toronto in 1958, where Joe has lived since.