Michael “Miki” Goldmann (later Goldmann-Gilead, born 1925) was born in Katowice, Poland, to Naftali (1892-1942) and Esther Erna Goldreich Goldmann (1895-1942). He had a sister, Golda (1928-1942), and a brother, Jacob (1919-2009), named for their maternal grandfather, an Austrian soldier killed in World War I. Michael’s father, Naftali, worked in the family business as a local dairy supplier. Michael’s family lived comfortably and spoke German at home. He learned Polish and Hebrew at the local Jewish public school. The Jewish population in Katowice was small, and there was a lot of anti-Semitism in the region.
In the summer of 1939, Michael’s family feared that a German invasion was imminent and would be supported by many in Katowice. At the end of August, the family went to stay with his paternal grandfather in Bircza. In September, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, and Bircza fell under Soviet rule. Michael’s grandfather lost his business. In the summer of 1940, Michael’s family went to stay with maternal relatives in Niżankowice (now Nyzhankovychi, Ukraine). In June, 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied eastern Poland. Michael, his parents, and his sister, returned to Bircza, and his brother Jacob was conscripted into the Soviet Army. In July, Michael was transported to Przemysl forced labor camp and assigned to the Jewish construction service. In mid-July 1942, the camp and surrounding area became a closed ghetto. Jews from neighboring towns, including Michael’s parents, sister, and grandfather, were brought to the ghetto. On July 26, Michael saw his family in town briefly. The following day, they were taken east by train. Michael had heard rumors they were transported to a killing center.
The ghetto was run by Commandant Josef Schwammberger, an SS officer that would randomly shoot or whip prisoners. Michael worked in a metal shop and served as part of a transport commando, which collected possessions left by deported Jews. In August 1943, Michael’s commando was sent to the home of the deputy director of Przemysl’s train station. Among his possessions were technical railroad books. Michael hid them, fearing the Germans could use them to improve their transport trains. Two days later, the commandant questioned Michael about the books. Michael lied and the commandant whipped him repeatedly, causing him to lose consciousness several times. When the whipping stopped, the commandant ordered him to recover the books. Michael’s back was bloody and he could barely move, but he collected them. The commandant hit him once more, and Michael collapsed in an alley. After he recovered, observers told him he had been whipped 81 times. In late August, there was a selection and Michael was transported to Szebnie forced labor camp, where he worked as a night shift electrician. On November 3, Michael was transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center. After passing through the selection process, Michael’s arm was tattooed with prisoner number 161135. Michael was transferred to Aushwitz III, Buna-Monowitz, where he was a metalworker in the IG Farben factory. In camp, Michael befriended a group of deported German Zionists, including Chanan Ansbacher and Eli Heilmann.
In mid-January 1945, the camp was evacuated, and Michael, Chanan, and Eli were sent on a forced march. On the third day, Michael and Chanan hid in a snowy roadside ditch near the town of Wielopole (now Rybnik), until the prisoners passed. They went into a yard and drank from a fountain. Eli found them there, and they climbed a ladder to hide in a hayloft. Soon, several SS guards came looking for escaped prisoners that neighbors had spotted. A woman and child came out and told the guards that the prisoners ran into the woods. The next morning, the woman’s 16 year old daughter, Stefania, climbed the ladder carrying a jug of milk and bread for the men. Her mother, Regina, had seen them hide and had lied to the guards. Regina and Konrad Zimoń’s daughters, Stefania, Agnieszka, and Maria, helped care for the men, and Stefania brought them milk and bread daily. After a week, Soviet forces liberated the region. Michael, Chanan, and Eli went to Krakow, where Chanan and Eli joined other former prisoners. Michael returned to visit the Zimońs before joining the Soviet Army as an interpreter in a tank battalion.
On May 7, 1945, when Germany surrendered, Michael was recovering from an injury in Prague. He returned to Katowice to find a German war widow living in his home and no trace of his family. He learned that they had been sent to Belzec killing center, and believed his brother had died in the Soviet army. Michael made his way to Pocking displaced persons camp in Germany. In late 1946, Michael travelled to Italy, with the help of the Bricha Movement, and boarded a ship smuggling immigrants into Palestine. The British, who ran Palestine under a mandate, seized the ship and sent the passengers to Famagusta internment camp on Cyprus. In the camp, Michael met Florada, a survivor from Bucharest, Romania, and they married on July 20, 1947.
In 1948, Michael and Florada were released and settled near Tel Aviv, Israel. They had two children and Michael worked as a police investigator. In May 1960, Adolf Eichmann, a chief architect of the Holocaust, was captured in Argentina and brought to Israel to stand trial for crimes against the Jewish people. Michael served as one of 14 Chief Inspectors in Office 6, which handled the collection of evidence and testimony for the prosecution. Eichmann was found guilty and sentenced to death. On June 1, 1962, Michael was one of two police officers present to testify that Adolf Eichmann had been executed. He later scattered the cremated remains beyond Israeli territorial waters. In the mid-1960s, Michael reunited with his brother, Jacob, who had survived and was living in Israel. Michael and Florada divorced. In the early 1970s, Michael met and married Eva, and they had three children. In 1992, Michael served as a witness at the trial of former Przemysl camp commandant Josef Schwammberger. He was found guilty of seven counts of murder and 32 counts of accessory to murder, and sentenced to life in prison. Michael visited his rescuers, the Zimoń family, in Poland several times, and in 1995, Regina, Konrad, and Stefania were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem.