Bluma Goldberg, who as a young girl survived the horrors of the Nazi death camps, was honored Wednesday with two prestigious awards in recognition of her indomitable spirit in rebuilding a life for herself and her family in America.
Goldberg, 87, believed to be Columbia’s last survivor of the Holocaust, received the Americanism award, a national award from the USC chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She also was presented with the Order of the Palmetto, the state’s highest civilian honor for her courage and perseverance.
“I vividly remember my first day in South Carolina arriving on a train with my dear husband Felix” in downtown Columbia, she told the gathering at the Lace House on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion. “I was a young wife and mother of a 2-year-old child, without even a dollar in my pocket. I was scared and unable to speak English.
“Today, I stand before you a citizen of this wonderful city, state and country that liberated me,” Goldberg said. “Our great state of South Carolina welcomed and afforded us an opportunity to rebuild our lives, raise our family and become productive citizens.”
Goldberg, who was accompanied by her three grown children, Henry, Esther and Karl, and members of their families, received a standing ovation. Gina McCuen, who had worked to secure the DAR honor, told Goldberg the framed citation “is being given not only in honor of you but in memory of Felix,” her late husband.
Ted Pitts, chief of staff to Gov. Nikki Haley, presented the Order of the Palmetto to Goldberg, saying “her story should be required reading in South Carolina history books.”
After learning of her incredible, torturous journey from Poland to America, Pitts said “she is more of an American than I am.”
Goldberg, born Bluma Tishgarten in Pinczow, Poland, fled into the woods with her sister Cela at the insistence of her mother shortly after Nazis invaded her town and began burning houses and rounding up Jews. She and her sister survived a number of work and concentration camps, including Bergen-Belsen, before their liberation by the U.S. Army. Their parents and four siblings perished.
After the war, Bluma met Felix Goldberg, also a Holocaust survivor, in a displaced persons camp in Germany where they were both recovering. They married in a double wedding ceremony with her sister. Cela married Felix Goldberg’s best friend, David Miller, who had participated in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and survived Auschwitz concentration camp, labor camps and death marches. The four relocated to Columbia in 1949, sponsored by Beth Shalom Synagogue and remained lifelong friends.
Felix Goldberg learned to lay carpet and tile and eventually opened his own tile store. All four spoke of their wartime experiences to schools and community groups and warned of the excesses of evil in the world. Felix Goldberg and Cela Miller died in 2000; David Miller died in 2011.
“Year after year, she often trekked to schools, colleges and public forums to emphasize the importance of history,” retired Columbia College history professor Selden K. Smith wrote in his letter of recommendation to the DAR. “Her reluctance to reveal her personal pain was overcome by her compulsion to raise the importance of memory. Surely society can do better. Bluma Goldberg accepted her responsibility for ‘Never again.’”