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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives

MEMORIST:                        JOSEF GOLCMAN

INTERVIEWER:                    JOHN KENT

                                           RUTH EINSTEIN

DATE:                                   MAY 23, 2001

LOCATION:                          ATLANTA, GEORGIA

Transcript (PDF)


Ephraim Josef Golcman was born in Leopoldow, Poland on March 18, 1917. He had three brothers and four sisters. Their father, Jacob, was in business selling cooking and oil and owned a grocery store. Josef’s family was a religious family and celebrated Shabbos and other important religious events together. He was a Zionist and a member of the Mizrachi.

When the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, Josef’s family was in a ghetto in Ryki, Poland. They were later sent to a work camp in Deblin, Poland. From there they went to Czestochowa. Most of Josef’s family was killed during the Holocaust. Towards the end of the war, Josef, one sister, one younger brother and three cousins escaped to the woods, where they likely lived with partisans. His cousins were killed, but the three Golcman siblings survived. The Soviet army liberated them in January 1944.

After the war, Josef temporarily settled in Zelechow, Poland, where other survivors, including his future wife, Bronia Apelker, joined him. To escape anti-Jewish violence in the area, Josef and Bronia went to Lodz, Poland, where Josef established a delicatessen and the couple was married. After deciding that life was too uncertain in Poland, Josef, Bronia, his brother, sister-in-law and another friend fled to the American-occupied zone in Germany. A daughter was born in a displaced persons camp in Deggendorf, Germany.

Josef’s siblings immigrated to the United States and Josef, Bronia and their daughter followed in 1949. Josef, Bronia and their daughter arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana and then settled in Savannah, Georgia. While living in Savannah, Josef was able to start a delicatessen and market, the Savannah Kosher Market. Two more daughters were born in Savannah. In 1973, Josef and Bronia moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he bought two hotels and began a successful real estate business.

Josef visited Israel three times during his life and enjoyed each visit. He has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Bronia died in 1998 and Josef died on June 10, 2010. 

Scope of Interview:

Josef describes growing up in Ryki, Poland with his family and their religious life. He discusses how his family lived in the ghetto in Ryki and the use of the Judenrat by the Germans to send Jews to the various camps in Poland. He recounts the way the Poles treated the Jews in Poland and how this was not a positive experience for him. Josef outlines his time in Deblin and then Czestochowa as a slave laborer. He explains his life hiding in the forests at the end of the war.  He reflects briefly on the loss of his parents and other family members during the Holocaust. Josef recounts how his family, friends, and future wife met in the town of Zelechow as agreed upon after liberation. He describes how the Poles were not happy to see him return and how they killed shot several Jewish women who had also returned. Josef details how he was able to dig up a box of religious items he had buried before the war. He recalls how he started a business in Lodz and became successful. He details how his brother joined the Soviet army and, while he was in Lodz on furlough, they escaped to Deggendorf, Germany by train with forged papers. Josef recounts how he and his family came to New Orleans, Louisiana and later to Savannah, Georgia, where he opened a kosher market and delicatessen. He describes his introduction to segregation in the South. Josef details his family’s move to Atlanta, Georgia in 1973, where he began a hotel and real estate business. He details his daughters’ lives and his grandchildren. Josef shares his viewpoints on Poles, Germans, and Israel. He reminisces about his family and the loss of loved ones during the Holocaust. Josef expresses his hope for Jewish people.  

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