British Columbia

Holocaust survivors' story recounted in new memoir penned by son

A new memoir called Two Pieces of Cloth: One Family's Story of the Holocaust, recounts the stories of David and Aurelia Goldberger — Holocaust survivors who fled to Canada and started a business in Vancouver.

Vancouver businessman David Goldberger was known for starting Gold's Fashion Fabrics on Granville Street

David and Aurelia Goldberger's son, Joe, has written a book about their lives, from their perspectives. (Page Two Books)

The late David Gold, formerly Goldberger, was best known in Vancouver for his two-storey textile shop, Gold's Fashion Fabrics, on Granville Street at West 11th Ave. He and his wife, Aurelia, immigrated to Canada in 1948, raised a family in Vancouver and worked hard to maintain the family business. 

The Goldbergers were also Holocaust survivors.

Their lives are the subject of a new memoir, titled Two Pieces of Cloth: One Family's Story of the Holocaust, written by their son, Joe Gold, from the perspective of the Goldbergers.

Using personal conversations Gold had with his parents, archival documents and testimonies given to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre, Gold, 74, was able to weave together their journey from Bratislava to Auschwitz to B.C.

"It's an amazing story because he didn't know a word of English and he opened up this little fabric store three weeks after coming to Vancouver," Gold told On the Coast host Gloria Macarenko. 

The Goldbergers' story

Goldberger, born in 1914, got involved in the world of textiles when he was just 14. He married Aurelia in 1941. They lived in Bratislava, Slovakia, but when the Germans moved into the area, they fled to Hungary. 

Goldberger was eventually sent to Auschwitz, while Aurelia hid under a false Christian identity with their newborn son, Andrew, disguising him as a girl to shield him from soldiers checking boys for circumcision. 

David, left, Aurelia and their child Andrew. (Page Two Books)

Goldberger was later sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where prisoners were starved and disease swept through the camp. He was there for 10 months, until he was evacuated in February 1945.

An estimated six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, including more than 60 members of the Goldberger family.

When Goldberger was liberated from Bergen-Belsen by the allies, he weighed 65 pounds. He and a group of men left for Hanover, where Goldberger bartered with a local textile business for two pieces of cloth, hoping to put his experience in fabrics to use. From there, he searched for Aurelia and Andrew, whom he later found alive in Budapest.

The Goldbergers had their second son, Joe Gold, after the war, in 1947.

Gold's Fashion Fabrics sat at Granville Street and West 11th Avenue in Vancouver. (Page Two Books)

The family came to Vancouver in 1948. Three weeks after their arrival, he opened his fabric store, which, over the next 25 years, grew to fill two floors and 20,000 square feet of retail space on Granville Street. 

The Goldbergers legally changed their name to Gold in 1952.

Aurelia passed away in 2007, and her husband died three years later. 

Information gathering

Gold said that growing up, his parents rarely spoke about the Holocaust. 

"You got fragments of information, bits and pieces over time," he said. 

He got most of his information from the testimony his father gave to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre in 1984 and learned more while filling out reparation applications with his father during the '90s. 

Joe Gold has written a memoir chronicling the lives of his parents, David and Aurelia Goldberger, who survived the Holocaust and eventually immigrated to Canada. (Page Two Books)

Having access to all this information about his parents' story of survival, and then their story of success in Vancouver, he wanted to put it on record, which inspired the book.

"I felt that this might all be lost unless I took time to put it together," he said. "I wanted to do this to leave a legacy for my children and grandchildren."

But writing about such a horrific tragedy was challenging. 

"I had periods of time where I actually became sad and depressed and where I found the subject matter extremely difficult to deal with," Gold said. 

Two Pieces of Cloth: One Family's Story of the Holocaust is told from the perspective of Holocaust survivors David and Aurelia Goldberger. (Page Two Books)

Even so, he persisted, and continues to collect information about his parents' journey. 

"I think that what I learned and I think what everybody can learn is that you can always start up again and be successful through hard work, determination, faith in yourself and humanity."

Half of the proceeds during the first two weeks of sales of Two Pieces of Cloth: One Family's Story of the Holocaust will be donated to the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. In addition, donations to the centre are being matched by Gold's family, up to $30,000. 

To listen to Joe Gold's interview on CBC's On the Coast, click here: 

With files from On the Coast


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