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[Page 1]

Introduction

In June 1948 Zdenek Toman, once one of the most feared and powerful men in post-War Czechoslovakia, was sitting in a Prague jail, accused of running a ring of black market operations for personal gain. Analysts believe the newly installed Communist government run by Klement Gottwald trumped up most of the accusations. Toman was told to expect a death sentence.

In a scattered sequence of events, the arrest warrant for Toman was issued in January of 1948 but before he was officially arrested he was sent on a forced “vacation” to a rest home outside of Prague. Held under non-declared house arrest, Toman was cut off from any contact with his family or friends. His wife, Paula, went to Toman's former nominal boss, the Interior Minister Nosek, for information. None was forthcoming. She was told not to worry. While Toman was recovering from an undiagnosed illness, the Czech Communist Party with the help of the Russian secret service strengthened their grip over Czechoslovakia. When Toman was finally released in May he had only a few days before the arrest warrant was finally executed in June, and Toman was brought to jail.

Czechoslovakia's West-leaning Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk, a Liberal Democrat, was already dead. He died on March 10, 1948. Officially he had committed suicide just after the Communist take-over in February 1948. But the circumstances of his death were murky, including a suicide note of questionable veracity. The only thing that was certain was Masaryk's fall from the window of his apartment to the sidewalk several stories below. To this day, nobody knows what exactly happened to Masaryk.

Tad Szulc, author of the book “Secret Alliance” believes that Toman was part of the Soviet clean-up of any possible resistance to the Communist rule in Czechoslovakia. Toman was much too powerful a figure to be allowed to remain in power. He was too involved with Western agencies notably the UNRRA ( United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) and the JDC (American Joint Distribution Committee). Even though Toman had been an ardent Communist, and trained by the KGB how to set-up the Czech secret police, he was considered a liability. He knew too much about too many people in power. He met the British and American ambassadors who were protesting the open doors of Czechoslovakia that enabled about 250,000 East European Jews to leave their temporary homes and reach the D.P. camps. He knew many of those had benefited by the black-market deals Toman had pulled off while raising money for the Czech Communist party and for some party officials. Some had expensive rugs in their homes provided by Toman, others jewelry for their wives, not to mention the whiskey and cigars as rare as water in the desert for most Czechs.

While in jail, awaiting his trial, Toman was given the shocking news that his beautiful wife Paula, a pharmacist at the local hospital, had committed suicide, leaping from her third-floor apartment's balcony, much as Jan Masaryk was said to have done a few months earlier. Paula jumped holding her hand-bag, with a suicide note inside of it, wearing high-heeled shoes, leaving her 18 month old son Ivan. Observers believe that Paula Toman was killed to show her husband that he better cooperate with the authorities who were preparing a show trial reminiscent of the famous Stalin show trials of “Boukharine” and others. His son Ivan also disappeared, never to be seen again.

Toman's reaction was totally unexpected. He planned and executed his escape from jail and then from Czechoslovakia. He reached Venezuela[1] where his brother lived. He amassed a fortune and became a large financial donor to Israel. He showed up at Israel's Ben Gurion University of the Negev where he dedicated a building for $5 million, receiving an honorary doctorate on the same stage as former U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig. For a man who ran the Czech secret police, a clone of the KGB, Toman is a most unlikely hero.


[Page 9]

Chapter I

The Goldberger family

We decided to begin the story by providing short biographical sketches of the family so that the reader could follow the story. The extended Goldberger family has many active participants and in order to follow them we need a family reference page, notably with name changes. We hope that this unorthodox way of presentation will help the reader to follow the story and receive a better understanding of the period.

Goldberger, David owned a grocery store where liquor was sold in Sobrance, Slovakia. He was very religious and the family was related to Hasidic rabbis. David married Rosalia Thoman. They had eight children. David was deported to the Uzhhorod ghetto by the Germans and Hungarians in March of 1944 and then sent to Auschwitz on May 17th 1944. He perished in the Holocaust.

Goldberger, Rosalia nee Thoman, a native of Sobrance married David Goldberger. She was orthodox and wore a wig. They had eight children. She was deported to the Uzhhorod ghetto by the Germans and Hungarians in March of 1944 and then sent to Auschwitz on May 17,1944.She perished in the Holocaust.

Goldberger, Armin, son of David and Rosalia, born in 1903 in Sobrance. Finished elementary school in Sobrance and high school in Uzhhorod. He studied electrical engineering. He graduated and left Czechoslovakia. In the spring of 1940, he reached Venezuela. He worked all his life as an engineer. He started to work in Venezuela for the Public Works Ministry and later became an independent contractor. He married Suze Eylenbur (a native of Breslau, Germany) and they had two children: Tomas born on August 18, 1940 and a daughter who lives in Palo Alto, California. The family lived in Caracas and had an industrial company named Gexim that dealt with industrial machinery in Caracas. Armin died in 1998 in Venezuela. Tomas Goldberger married Cecilia. Tomas Goldberger and his wife live in Miami, USA.

Goldberger, Baruch, (Jeno) son of David and Rosalia. Born in 1908 in Sobrance. He married Ella Grunfeld. His traces were lost during WWII. Apparently he was drafted into the Hungarian labor battalions and disappeared. Baruch Goldberger married Ella Braunfeld, born in 1914 in Sobrance. She was deported to the Uzhhorod ghetto by the Germans and Hungarians in March of 1944 and then sent to Auschwitz May 17, 1944. She perished in the Holocaust.

 

Testimony page submitted by a brother of Ella Grunfeld in 1955 to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem

 

Goldberger, Esther, daughter of Baruch and Ella Goldberger born in Sobrance in 1941. Deported to Uzhhorod ghetto by the Germans and Hungarians in March of 1944 and then sent to Auschwitz on May 17, 1944. She perished in the Holocaust.

Goldberger, Bossi, daughter of David and Rosalia. Born in Sobrance. Married. Deported to Uzhhorod ghetto by Germans and Hungarians in March of 1944 and then sent to Auschwitz on May 17,1944. She perished in the Holocaust.

 

Goldberger Asher Zelig

 

Goldberger Asher Zelig, son of David and Rosalia. Born on March 2, 1909 in Sobrance. Finished elementary school in Sobrance and high school in Uzzhorod. Entered the law faculty of the Charles University in Prague in the winter term of 1927/1928 and graduated in 1933 as an attorney. He joined the Communist party at the University. Married Pesla Gutman on January 26th,1935 in Lodz, Poland. Spent war years in England. Member of the Czech Government in Exile in London. Returned to liberated Czechoslovakia and headed state security office and member of the Czech Repatriation Commission. Helped the American Joint and the Bricha organization to transport thousands of Polish, Hungarian, Rumanian, Czech, Slovak, Ukrainian and Baltic Jews across Czechoslovakia to the D.P. refugee camps in Germany, Austria and Italy. There were about 60,000 Jews in these countries at the end of the war. Toman officially stated that he helped 250,000 Jews reach safety. In 1948 their number reached about 300,000. In 1948 he was arrested but fled to West Germany[2], then to London[3] and later to Venezuela where he joined the family plant of “Gexim” established by his brother Armin. On June 23, 1949 he was condemned to death in absentia and loss of all assets. His appeal to the Czech Supreme Court was rejected on April 3 1950. His wife supposedly committed suicide on May 8, 1948. His son disappeared forever. He married again to Maria Marinadi. He made large contributions to various cultural and educational institutions in Israel namely the Ben Gurion University of Beer Sheba. He was known as Zoltan Toman and was the recipient of many awards on behalf of his activities, in Israel and the USA. Toman was officially rehabilitated following 1989. He died December 20, 1997 in Cabo San Lucas a Mexican resort, later buried in Santa Barbara, California. Eventually buried in Venezuela.

 

Biographical report on Zdenek Toman Goldberger provided by the secret American Central Intelligence Agency( CIA). It took a great deal of effort to obtain this skimpy and partial information. Apparently, the CIA is determined to keep this file closed

 

Gutman Pesla, daughter of Mendel Gutman, born in Konskie, Poland on December 25th 1912. She studied pharmacology at the Karlovary University in Prague where she met Zoltan Toman. They married on January 26th, 1935, in Lodz, Poland. The couple later escaped to England where they spent the war years. She worked for the Czech Red Cross in England. Both returned to liberated Czechoslovakia. With the arrest of her husband on April 27, 1948, the Czech security police questioned her; she then supposedly committed suicide by jumping through the window. She fell in the courtyard of her building on May 8, 1948. The janitor reported the incident to the police. Her body was cremated by order of the police. A brother of hers, Zvi Gutman survived the war and reached Israel.

 

Ivan Toman, the son of Zdenek and Pesla Toman/Goldberger

 

Ivan Toman was born on October 4, 1947. With his mother's supposed suicide, he was placed in Stvnice a state shelter for infants in Prague. Ivan was constantly moved back and forth until he completely disappeared from sight. The Czech secret police moved him from place to place. The authorities never revealed his whereabouts. All inquiries were ignored or sent to the wrong places. The Czech secret police did on occasion release misleading reports about the boy but no attempt was ever made to return the child to the family or to a normal home for infants.

 

Maria Marinadi Toman

 

Maria married Zdenek Toman in Venezuela. She had three daughters by a previous marriage. The entire family moved to the States in the sixties. She died in 2003.

Goldberger, Bella, daughter of David and Rosalia. Born in Sobrance. Married. Deported to Uzhhorod ghetto by Germans and Hungarians in March of 1944 and then sent to Auschwitz on May 17,1944.She perished in the Holocaust.

Goldberger, Klara, daughter of David and Rosalia. Born in Sobrance. Deported to Uzhhorod ghetto by Germans and Hungarians in March of 1944 and then sent to Auschwitz on May 17th 1944.She perished in the Holocaust.

 

Letter of reply from the International Tracing office in Arolsen, Germany as to the whereabouts of Lenke Goldberger. Notice the remarks written in pencil that state that she was sent to Sweden to recuperate following the war. Information provided by UNRRA

 

Goldberger, Lenke (Magdalena), daughter of David and Rosalia Goldberger, born on January 20, 1913 in Sobrance. She was sent to Germany to her mother's sister, Fanny Thomann who lived in Germany. She was arrested and sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp with her aunt in October 1943. She then moved to other camps and wound up in Bergen Belsen concentration camp, where she was liberated by the British. She barely survived and was sent to a Swedish hospital to recuperate. Slowly she regained her health and strength and returned to Prague, Czechoslovakia where her brother Toman was an important official. She also met her sister Aranka in Prague. Lemke took on the last name of Toman and became Lenke Toman. She married Simon Leibovitz, a native of Muncacz, Czechoslovakia. In 1949, they managed to leave Czechoslovakia and reached Caracas Venezuela where her brother Armin Goldberg lived. They lived in Venezuela and were naturalized in Venezuela in 1952. They arrived in New York (Idlewild Airport, now JFK) from Maiquetia, Venezuela, on April 24, 1966, via Pan Am Airways. She passed away on April 21, 1999 and is buried in Santa Barbara, California.

Below is a document sent by the Arolsen Tracing Office to a legal office in Germany regarding the whereabouts of Lenke Goldberger, Red Cross letter from Venezuela indicating Lenke's file as well as all the family members of the Goldberger family in Caracas, Venezuela.

 

Letter of reply from the International Tracing office in Arolsen, Germany as to the whereabouts of Lenke Goldberger. Notice the remarks written in pencil that state that she was sent to Sweden to recuperate following the war. Information provided by UNRRA

 

Goldberger, Aranka Goldberger, Aranka / Aurelie, daughter of David and Rosalia, born on April 4th, 1918, in Sobrance. She finished the local school and took some commercial course in Uzhhorod. She worked in a store and then managed to reach Uzhhorod and later Budapest where she was arrested and send to Sipa Riga camp or Bocce camp ( reference is to the Backa camp near the Yugoslav border)[4]. With the rapid advances of the Russian armies she was transported to the Stutthof concentration camp near the port city of Danzig.

 

Aranka's residence card after the war

 

Aranka Goldberger was born in Sobrance, April 8, 1918. She arrived from the Sipa Riga camp to the Stutthof concentration camp on August 9, 1944. See her camp card.

Aranka claims she was in Auschwitz but the next sentence she speaks of East Prussia which is where Stutthof was located. The camp was soon evacuated for the Red armies are approaching. All inmates are sent on long death marches where many of them perished. Aranka was liberated by the Russian army in East Prussia and headed to Warsaw and then to Sobrance where she found no survivors. She then moved to Uzhhorod where her brother Zdenek Toman found her and took her to his home in Kosice and later to Prague. Aranka worked for the Ministry of Social Welfare and met and married Imre or Imrich Rosenberg,an official of the repatriation commission within the Social Welfare Ministry. They married on October 2, 1945 in accordance with Jewish law. She was arrested on April 28th 1948, a day after her brother Zdenek Toman was arrested. She remained in jail until the trial on June 23, 1949. She was accused of dealing in foreign currency, treasonable activities and received 15 years of hard labor. She appealed the sentence on April 3, 1950 but the appeal was rejected. She served 13 years of her sentence and was released from jail. While in prison, her husband Imre Rosenberg divorced her. He married Truda Osterman in Ottawa, Canada.. Aranka finished her jail sentence and was permitted to join her brothers in Venezuela. She later returned to Czechoslovakia and conducted an active but fruitless search for her nephew. She lived and married in Venezuela. She and her husband established the Eksa company that sold similar items to the Gexim company of her brother. Aranka died on April 21, 1999. Her husband died in Venezuela and was buried at the Jewish cemetery.

Rosenberg Itzhak Imrich/Imre was born May 17, 1913 in Nové Mesto nad Váhom, Slovakia, Slovakia. His father Samuel Moshe known as Maurice was in the furniture business in Nové Mesto. They had two sons: Imre and Avraham known as Adulo. Imre finished elementary and high school in Nové Mesto. He was active in the Zionist student movement. studied law at the Bratislava University and held various posts in the Maccabi Hatzair organization in Czechoslovakia. He wrote articles for the Zionist publications in Czechoslovakia. Visited Palestine prior to WWII. He continued his legal studies at the Hague in Holland where he specialized in minority rights. The war found him in England where he joined the Czech Government in Exile. He represented the Czech Jewish interests in the government in exile. He returned with the government to liberated Czechoslovakia and was appointed to the Repatriation Commission. He was later moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Due to his outspoken Zionist views he had difficulty keeping his governmental posts. He was also very active on behalf of the Jewish community. He married Aranka Goldberger, sister of Zoltan Toman in Prague on October 2, 1945. He left the government and entered the private sector. He had several positions and finally joined a financial company named Joint and Co. He traveled frequently abroad on behalf of the concern and his last trip sent him to Belgium. He was in Brussels when the Communists seized power. He left Belgium and headed to London when the Czech police began to look for him at home. Of course, he remained in England and began frantic efforts to find out what happened to his wife. Information was hard to come by but the situation looked ominous. Then the secret trial took place and his wife received 15 years of hard labor. He, Imrich Rosenberg was condemned in absentia to a life sentence of hard labor and loss of all assets. He decided to head to Canada. He arrived penniless and started odd jobs to keep going. Then he started to deal in real estate and later joined the academic world. He divorced Aranka in 1954 when she was still serving time in prison. He later married Truda Osterman a psychologist. They lived in Israel and then returned to Canada. He died in 1986.

 

Imrich Itzhak Rosenberg

 

Imrich Itzhak Rosenberg, Czech Jewish leader and high government official.

Avraham Rosenberg survived the Slovakian camp of Sered and the Theresienstadt concentration camp. He was liberated by the Russians and returned to Nové Mesto. In November of 1949, he and his family left Czechoslovakia for Israel.

Fanny (Franziska) Thoman was born on December 29, 1882 in Sobrance. She was a sister of Rosalia Thoman the wife of David Goldberger in Sobrance. Fanny moved to Germany where she lived in her villa in Berlin.

 

Fanny Thoman address card in Berlin Dahlen, Kesserstrasse 21

In 1940 she was later moved to Berlin-Charlottenburg, Berliner Strasse 97. In October 1943 she was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp with her niece Lenke Goldberger. Fanny Thoman died at the camp on February 5, 1945.


Footnotes

  1. Information provided by Cecilia Goldberger, daughter in law of Armin Goldberger. Return
  2. According to Czech unofficial police report submitted to the court at the trial of Toman. Return
  3. Information provided by D.Gutman, nephew of Zdenek Toman. Return
  4. Biography submitted by Aranka Goldberg-Rosenberg to the court in Prague. Return

 

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