A HOLOCAUST survivor who lives in Bournemouth has been paid an emotional visit by a school mate who travelled from America to see him.
Mark Goldfinger, or Marek as he was known then, was a nine-year-old boy when German tanks rolled into his home town of Rabka, Poland, in 1939. He was taken to Krakow ghetto and then to Plaszow and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Although unknown to each other at the time, Czeslan Smolecki, now known as Chester, was living in the same place and attending the same school when Mark was captured by the Nazis.
More than seven decades later Chester is living in Minnesota and Mark in Bournemouth.
Chester’s daughter, Aggie began researching her family history last year in preparation for a book she is writing about Polish-Jewish relations, including the efforts made by her relatives to help persecuted Jews.
As part of this she was in touch with Werner Oder, a pastor at Tuckton Christian Centre, whose father was an SS officer during the war.
Werner, born several years after the war finished, became acquainted with Mark after apologising to him on behalf of his family in 2006 for their role in persecuting Jews.
“I was reading a book that had Mr Goldfinger’s story in it,” said Aggie. “Pastor Oder mentioned that he knew him and that he lived in the same town. When I realised he was alive and well and someone I could talk to I wanted to find out more.”
Aggie wrote to Mark and a friendship developed as they exchanged more and more letters and decided to meet. She also felt it would be a good opportunity for her father to meet somebody from his hometown.
She said: “They are only three years apart and probably have similarities and their stories could blend together. I felt I could learn about history during that time because for me it is just reading books. Speaking to Mr Goldfinger I get the real firsthand account of what Jews went through and what Polish-Jewish relations looked like in Rabka.”
Mark said he was pleased the pair had made the effort to fly across an ocean to meet him and was looking forward to swapping stories about their respective histories.
He added: “In dealing with these matters, the number one thing I look at is sincerity – and they have that.”