Survivor STORY

Ginger Goldhammer was born on June 16, 1906, in Nemes Kosztolany, Hungary, and grew up in Edgar, Hungary. Her mother died in 1920, leaving eight children, including Ginger. Her father soon remarried and the couple had seven more children.

Ginger went to high school in Budapest and later met her future husband, Egon Goldhammer, a doctor who was taking care of her sick aunt in Vienna, Austria. They were married in 1934.

In 1938, Hitler marched into Austria and the Goldhammers tried to escape by securing passage on a boat going to Finland, but upon docking were forced to return to Austria. Egon was taken away by the Gestapo and incarcerated in Buchenwald concentration camp. Ginger begged a high ranking SS officer, with whom she had once gone out on a date, to allow her husband to be released. Remarkably, he arranged for Egon to return home, but only gave him 48 hours to leave the country. He managed to buy a ticket to Shanghai, China, which was a haven for European Jews at that time. Ginger was able to join him in 1939.

After the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor, German and Austrian Jews were forced to live in the Hongkew ghetto in Shanghai, and Ginger and Egon were forced to trade homes with someone who lived in the teeming Hongkew slum. Ginger worked first at a dry cleaners in the famous Cathay Hotel in the French Concession and then as a nanny for a British family.

After the war ended and the Japanese forces were expelled from China, the Goldhammers applied for a visa to the United States then waited two years for their quota number to come up allowing them to emigrate. They landed in San Francisco, where cousins gave her the news that one brother had survived the war in Europe. Only one other sister, who had moved to Palestine before the war, survived; the rest of her immediate family was murdered.

The Goldhammers moved to New York, where Egon prepared for his physician's license and was hired in a Veterans Administration hospital in Mission, Texas and later in another V.A. hospital in Rome, Georgia. After Egon's death, Ginger moved to Atlanta, where she is still an active volunteer at the Veteran's Administration Hospital. Her myriad volunteer activities have included the American Cancer Society, Planned Parenthood, the Blood Bank, ORT, the Anti-defamation League, among numerous other organizations.

Coming to America

And then we came to San Francisco. My cousins picked us up from the Golden...the boat came up to the Golden Gate Bridge. What a dream. And they took in a hotel and first thing I took a bath because I didn't have a bath for- And they had, they, my uncle my aunt, they were very nice, feeding us, my cousins, and taking us here, there, and all kinds of experience America, you know. And it was a dream. And the thing, we arrived third of July, so Fourth of July was next day. If I remember well, Darlings, five-day celebration was in San Francisco, Fourth of July. Wherever you went. It was a dream, you know, after that misery in China. And the food, and, lots of food. And my cousin took us to the market. What was the market name, I forgot. I, and I said, "Food, my God," I said, "so much food!" Whatever I saw my cousins bought me. This, that, that, again, more figs, more, and I never had saw a fig, and the dates, whatever it was around I wanted to eat. So they bought, bought, bought. And in the hotel, I had this - it looked like a market, a food market.

Learning English

I went to a movie, somebody told me to do it, who was already here, said, "The best is in the movie." First of it, we had no money, I could not afford to make, to go to a teacher. So I walked nine blocks where I lived at my aunt's. We lived in a little room in, a small room we rented. Nine blocks. There were two movies. I went to one; always the same. It was 20 cents some days and 25 Sunday. And, no matter what, I can't even remember what, I went to see the movie, to hear it. And we had no money, so, banana was very cheap, I think 5 cents or 10 cents a pound, terribly cheap, and water was free, in the movie, in the lobby. So I took the banana or two, was still cheaper even than bread at that time. And I listened to the movie, two, twice, whatever, two shows. So three hours and three, sometimes six hours I was sitting, just going in the lobby to get water. And then I walked home. And I saw that movie whole week, I went back five times, to get used it, to the words. And sometimes I could remember whole sentence. Then there was free Washington school, Washington Heights (I forgot the school) and I went there twice or three times a week in the evening. And I wrote down what I could, and, however, the accent you cannot forget. But mostly I would say yes, I learned it in the movie, learning English. That was the cheapest.

Importance of Family and Friends

And I'm very fortunate with my, mostly, God bless my friends. I am very fortunate. It's really, all I can say is I'm blessed with friends. And, don't forget, if somebody, somebody and you get friends. But I am nothing, absolutely, what, just a plain Ginger, who just loves people, and who loves to work, and I enjoy being still a volunteer and I'm very grateful to God that he gave me this strength still.


To young people, my message would be, first get education. Very hard to get, especial now in the future, you know, with all these computers, all this going to the moon, all that. And education is very important. Then, don't...You can reach for the moon but not materialistically. They should, there are idealistic things in this world which makes you happy. Not money. I don't think money can make you happy. And, it's good to have it, if you, whatever you need, if you have that, then you are blessed. You don't need more. If you have it, that's ok too. Try to give it away - that makes you happy, give it away. Give your love away, give your, share your, whatever you have, that's very important. That makes, keeps, makes friends and makes your life rich. Anyway, that's the way I feel and I feel very happy about it.

Ginger Goldhammer