Vancouver woman who survived Holocaust dies

Slave-labor assignment got her out of infamous Auschwitz concentration camp

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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Diana Golden probably owed her life to a slave-labor assignment. It got her out of Auschwitz.

The longtime Vancouver resident, who died Sunday, recalled that pivotal chapter in her life in a 2006 Columbian story.

Golden got a chance to leave Auschwitz late in October 1944 when she and her sisters were chosen as labor-camp candidates. Each woman had to take off her dress and stand naked so her potential for hard work could be evaluated.

"Those who were emaciated were put to death at the end of the day. They didn't want to give a piece of bread to a dying person," Golden said.

The 22-year-old Golden, her 20-year-old sister, Felicia, and a cousin were selected.

"Our sister was only 14, and she was rejected," Golden said. "We cried because it was the end of her life."

But another requisition came along later in the day, and sister Jeannette was selected for that group.

They were liberated in April 1945 by the Soviets, and Golden went on to live 68 more years after surviving the Holocaust.

The longtime Vancouver resident and her husband, Kenneth, raised their family here and owned a downtown business, American Music.

Diana Golden died in Portland at age 91. Elaine Golden of Vancouver said her mother had a heart attack on Friday.

In the 2006 Columbian story, Diana Golden explained that she grew up on the Greek island of Rhodes. The German army occupied Rhodes during World War II, and rounded up the Jewish community in 1944.

"They had all our names. Being on the list had been the only way we could get food," Golden said. More than 1,800 people were herded onto three small cargo ships.

"About 140 of us were left after the war," she said.

In Athens, the family was locked into a boxcar for the trip to Auschwitz. Her father died on the train; her mother died soon after they reached Auschwitz on Aug. 16, 1944. A German officer evaluating the prisoners signaled Golden and her two sisters to go to the left. The German sent their mother and aunt to the right.

Golden moved to the United States in 1948, and eventually wound up in Seattle, where she met Kenneth Golden, a Portland resident. They were married in 1952.

The Goldens lived for 30 years in Vancouver, where they raised daughters Elaine and Estelle.

Diana Golden said she didn't talk about her wartime experiences for almost 30 years, when she realized her role in history: as a witness.

"I'm not a martyr. I did not achieve anything," she said. "I was just a product of that time, but I am not going to remain silent."

Burial is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Ahavai Shalom Cemetery, 9323 S.W. First Ave., in Portland.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com