By Bob Reinert, USAG Natick Public AffairsApril 25, 2017
NATICK, Mass. (April 25, 2017) -- Though he lost family members and was displaced from his home in his childhood, C. Peter R. Gossels refused to let evil control the rest of his life.
Five in his family, including his mother, died in the Holocaust during World War II, and he and his brother, Werner, escaped to France when they were 8 and 5 years old, respectively, but those personal tragedies never consumed Gossels, now 86.
"Instead of allowing the evil that the Nazis had inflicted on my family to poison my life, by filling my mind with hate for the German people who created and supported Hitler and his Nazi Party," said Gossels, "I thought I had more constructive things to do."
Indeed, Gossels went on to become an accomplished attorney, scholar, public servant and community leader. The Wayland, Massachusetts, resident came to Natick Soldier Systems Center April 24 to speak at its Holocaust Days of Remembrance observance, "Learning from the Holocaust, the Strength of the Human Spirit." Also attending the event were a number of invited guests, including his brother, Holocaust survivors, World War II veterans and prominent local community members.
Later in the day, the documentary film, "The Children of Chabannes," was aired for the NSSC workforce. The 93-minute, Emmy Award-winning film, directed by Gossels' daughter, Lisa Gossels, deals with the citizens of Chabannes, France, who risked their lives protecting 400 vulnerable Jewish children during World War II.
Born in Berlin in 1930, Gossels was sent from Germany with his brother by their mother in 1939. After a two-year stay in France, they made their way to the United States in 1941, settling in the Boston area.
"In 1941, my 67-year-old grandfather … was forced into a train bound for Riga, Latvia," Gossels recalled. "He was murdered by firing squad along with many other German Jews."
He also told how his cousin, grandmother and aunt had died at the hands of the Nazis.
"Then on March 2nd, 1943, my 39-year-old mother, who had worked so hard to save the lives of her children, was forced onto a train bound for Auschwitz, Poland, where she was murdered shortly after her arrival," Gossels said.
Why was he telling those sad stories?
"Evil is nothing new," said Gossels, adding that "we cannot fully understand the reality of evil until it becomes personal. How do we live with the knowledge that evil exists in many forms and is likely to persist in this world until the Messiah comes, as we Jews are apt to say?"
Gossels, who served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956, recommended supporting the armed forces and first responders.
"The second thing you must do as individuals is contribute to good government," said Gossels, "to support private organizations dedicated to helping people of limited means and to helping friends and neighbors in need of help and love."
Gossels pointed out that though he was "cursed by evil as a child," he was blessed as an adult by his wife, Nancy Lee Gossels, their three children, and a recent grandchild. Despite what he has been through and all the turmoil in today's world, Gossels remains hopeful for the future.
"Look at this room," Gossels said. "This a roomful of good people. Good people will always stand up, I hope, for goodness and decency toward other people, and not just Jews.
"I would think that the majority of people in this country and all over the world, hopefully, will rise up again. We all have to keep fighting evil. It's going to continue."