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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives


                                           RUTH EINSTEIN

DATE:                                   FEBRUARY 15, 2001

Transcript (PDF)


Gyongyi “Ginger” Goldhammer was born on June 16, 1906 in a Hungarian village called Nemes Kostova. She was one of six children born to a religious family. After her mother died, her father remarried and fathered another seven children, one of whom died before the Holocaust. While caring for an aunt at a sanatorium in Vienna, Austria, she met a Dr. Egos Goldhammer. They were married in 1934.

After the Germans annexed Austria in 1938, Egos was arrested and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. A condition of his release was that he would immediately emigrate. With donations from family and friends and money from the sale of the couple’s tickets for America, he was able to leave Europe on an Italian luxury liner that sailed to Shanghai, China. Ginger stayed in Vienna, volunteering at a food pantry and Jewish hospital, trying to raise money for her own ticket.

Relatives in the United States sent money for a ticket and Ginger was finally able to leave. She arrived in Shanghai in January 1940. Ginger and Egos planned to continue on to the United States. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 and war was declared, they were unable to leave. They spent the rest of the war in the Shanghai Ghetto, where overcrowding and a shortage of food and medicine made life very difficult. Ginger was lucky enough to get a pass to work outside the ghetto. Her jobs provided her with food and regular baths.

With the help of family in America, the couple finally was able to leave Shanghai two years after the war ended. On July 3, 1947, they arrived in San Francisco, California. They soon headed to New York City, New York, where Ginger had family. Ginger learned later that her father, stepmother, and their six children were murdered in Auschwitz. Egos studied to become certified as a doctor in the US while Ginger spent her days learning English.

In 1949, Egos found a job in Mission, Texas where they enjoyed the friendship of the hospital’s director. The Texas climate did not suit Egos’ poor health. In 1951, he took a position in Upstate New York. In 1952, the couple moved again to Rome, Georgia. A year later, they became American citizens. The couple enjoyed a happy life in the small town. In 1966, Egos suffered a heart attack and died. Ginger retired to Atlanta, Georgia, where she enjoyed volunteering and visiting with her many friends. Ginger passed away in 2008.

Scope of Interview: 

Ginger discusses meeting and marrying her husband, who was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp when the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938. She describes the struggle to find out information and get him released. Ginger relays the frenzy and frustration of trying to emigrate from Austria in 1939. When the couple finally escaped Europe, Ginger describes being forced in a ghetto in Shanghai, China. For five years, they struggled to survive starvation and isolation. Ginger describes finally leaving Shanghai and arriving in San Francisco in 1947 in what seemed a dream. She describes learning English while her husband studied to become certified as a doctor in the US. Ginger describes the two years they lived in Texas. Ginger outlines a brief move to upstate New York, where her husband encountered a former Nazi. She describes the next 15 years spent in Rome, Georgia as very happy years. She briefly mentions witnessing segregation and antisemitism. Ginger describes becoming an American citizen and changing her name. Ginger reflects on the bonds that develop between refugees. She determines the most important thing in life is to make friends and love people, regardless of race or religion.

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