Shalom Torah Academy of East Windsor commemorated Yom Hashoa, Holocaust Memorial Day, by welcoming Leon Goldenberg, who told students in the fifth-eighth grades about his family’s experiences during and after World War II and the heroism of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who rescued tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary.
Goldenberg’s father, who lost his first wife and five children in the Holocaust, never spoke about his experiences. “The secrets of his suffering were buried along with him,” said Goldenberg, adding that he has always deeply felt the loss of his siblings.
His mother survived Auschwitz with her four sisters. Goldenberg told the students that the sisters made a pact to survive together or die together, and as the result of many miraculous events, they escaped death. Throughout their time in Auschwitz, they stopped for a moment every Friday to observe Shabbat and fasted on Yom Kippur, Goldenberg said, adding that he recently was approached by a woman who told him her life was saved by the sisters, who hid her and fed her their meager rations while she recovered from illness.
Goldenberg also told the students about his wife’s family. Agi Goldenberg’s mother and her sisters were saved by Wallenberg, who provided thousands of “protective passes” for Jews to be treated as Swedish citizens. Wallenberg disappeared after the war and is believed to have been killed by the Russians.
Leon Goldenberg, who served on the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission, was among those who successfully urged Congress to award a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor to Wallenberg on the centenary of his birth in October 2011.
The chair of Shalom Torah Center’s board of directors, Goldenberg is also the benefactor of the Goldenberg Jewish Education Grant, awarding up to $5,000 to qualifying new students.