Henry (Heinz) was born in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Hermann and Rita Goldstein. Facing the increasing restrictions imposed on Jews by the Nuremberg Laws and the threat of violence after Kristallnacht, the Goldsteins procured what they believed were valid landing permits for Cuba and bought passage on the SS St. Louis. On the thirteenth of May, 1939, they sailed to Havana, Cuba aboard St. Louis, only to be denied entry when they docked.
Despite negotiations by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee with Cuba, other Central and South American countries and the United States, no country in the Americas was willing to take in the refugees. They were sent back to Europe, where France, England, the Netherlands and Belgium agreed to take them in. When the St. Louis docked at Antwerp, Henry was sent to a children's home outside of Paris. His mother was allowed to remain free. Henry's father was imprisoned in Gurs, a French internment camp, and then transferred to Drancy, a transit camp in a suburb of Paris, from which he was deported to Auschwitz, where he was murdered.
Henry and his mother traveled southeast to Nice, where they lived in relative safety until August 1942, when the Vichy government collaborating with the Nazis, arrested and deported all French Jews, including those in "unoccupied" southern France. Henry's mother bought false identification cards and they went into hiding in the attic of the home of a gentile family. Eventually, they took a guide and successfully made the dangerous crossing over the Alps into Switzerland, where they were given sanctuary. While Rita lived in a refugee center near Lucerne, Henry was placed first with a Jewish family and then with a gentile family. He attended a well-respected Swiss boarding school, after which he received training at the Swiss Hotel School.
Henry's culinary expertise served him well when he and his mother finally arrived in New York. He landed a job in the kitchen of the famous Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia, where his mother joined him on the staff. In 1949, he volunteered for a tour of duty with the Air Force. A few years later, Henry worked on merchant marine ships.
In 1965 Henry became a Captain in the Empire Room, the nightclub in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, a job he enjoyed for ten years. When the Empire Room was closed, he and his wife, Ilse, moved to Atlanta. In Atlanta, Henry first continued to be employed by hotels and later bought into a kosher catering business and then branched out into commercial catering as well.
Henry and Ilse's son, Mark, and his wife, have a daughter, Areana.
The idea was to go to Cuba, to Havana, until our quota number would come up to enter the United States. So it was an in-between type thing that we were looking for. But as it was we were not allowed to disembark. And that was, of course, quite tragic.
I remember a lot of turmoil on the way back to Europe. The whole world was trying to find a place for the 937 people because a return to Germany would have been unthinkable. So what happened is that France, England, Belgium, and Holland took each something like 220 or so Jews. And unfortunately France and Belgium and Holland were overrun. War broke out a few weeks afterwards. And then the people who had found refuge in those countries other than England, with the exception of England, they were quickly caught up in the Holocaust, of which I don't think too many actually survived. My own family, we, I was put into a home for children outside of Paris. My mother was permitted to remain free and my father was interned. He never saw freedom again.
We had, up to 1945, we had actually lived with the hope of seeing our father again... And that's very interesting. I never really had the opportunity to thoroughly mourn [for my father], as you would when someone dies. Because when you live with a person that's absent for 5 years or 6 years and then you don't see him again, it's a very strange emotion that, I find it hard to explain. It's not something that you would, where you have somebody who is sick or old and dies, regardless of how. My mother was 85 when she passed away and even though it is a very advanced age, I was devastated, much more so than I ever was for my father simply because he just ... He left, in a way that is just simply not normal.Changing Names
Now, traveling, I had eleven dollars at the time, you know, I was a short time in America, and coming to the Greenbriar Hotel, it ... You were hired from the Culinary Association in New York, the Swiss Culinary Association, Union Helvetia, it was called, but it was then that you had to go through the formality, quote unquote, of being processed into the role of employee. You had to fill out the papers in the personnel office and as my name was Heinz Goldstein, they ... a friendly young lady says to me, "You know something, with that name you will last here two weeks." And I discovered, I found out that the hotel was restricted, there were no Jewish, there was no clientele, no clients, no Jewish guests. The hotel was restricted, there were no Jews there. And that's precisely when I changed my name, actually. But I didn't change my name legally; I just changed my name from Heinz Goldstein to Henry Gallant. And, much to my mother's pain, I would say. She would say, "Ambassador Goldberg and Jonathan Goldstein, Attorney General of the State of New York, Ruby Goldstein, Referee of the Boxing Commission," and so forth, "and you have to change your name to Gallant." So she found that difficult to accept, but I changed my name because it was convenient.