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Holocaust Survivor William Gingold speaks at Moultrie County History Center

William (Bill) Gingold shares his story with an overflow crowd at the Moultrie County History Center

A large crowd was on hand on Thursday, May 18 at the Moultrie County History Center to hear Holocaust survivor William Gingold. Gingold was actually a survivor of the Warsaw ghetto having been born on September 20, 1939 only weeks after the beginning of the Second World War. The hospital where he was born was bombed the day after his birth but he and his mother escaped with the help of his father. Gingold was introduced to the audience by Dr. Brian Kahn, co-director of the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation’s Holocaust Education Center.

Gingold spent the first few years of his life in the Warsaw ghetto where 2/3 of those held died of starvation. They originally tried to escape to Russia but were stopped by Germans who loaded them on trucks and took them back to the ghetto. After surviving a few years under horrific conditions they were able to escape to the Russian border in 1942. Once there they were taken by train to work in Siberian lumber camps. While in Siberia his parents were able to work and earn money and their lives were vastly improved. Eventually they left the lumber camp and moved throughout Russia working in various places until they found their way to Kazakhstan.

In September 1945 the family entered the American sector of occupied Berlin and they were eventually sent to Foehrenwald Displaced Persons Camp where they lived for six years. In May of 1951 the Gingold family emigrated to the United States via Ellis Island and ended up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Gingold’s given name was Baruch but when he became a citizen of the United States he had it changed to William because of his admiration of William Boyd who many may remember as Hopalong Cassidy. This came about because he had spent many hours in movie theaters watching cowboy movies and perfecting his English. He later earned his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and two post doctoral degrees from UCLA and the University of Minnesota. In 1986 he became a professor of family medicine at the University of Illinois and has stayed there since.

The story of the Gingold family is documented in the book “Tunnel, Smuggle and Collect – A Holocaust Boy’s Story,” by Jeffrey Gingold, Bill’s nephew.

The exhibit, “The Auschwitz Experience in the Art of Prisoners” will be available for viewing at the history center through this Saturday, May 27.

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