Published in the June 8, 2016 edition


LYNNFIELD – Holocaust survivor Peter Gossels shared his story with eighth grade students at Lynnfield Middle School recently.

Gossels, now a prominent attorney in Boston, was an 8-year-old growing up in Germany during the time of the Holocaust. His parents were divorced and he lived with his mother, grandmother, aunt and younger brother.

When Gossels was in third grade, he and his brother were separated from his family and sent to France, where they stayed in the village of Chabannes. They lived there with about 300 other Jewish children. The people of Chabannes had never met a Jewish person before in their lives. But through their kindness, they fed, clothed and taught them everything they needed to know, despite the language barrier.

“We were all city kids from Berlin living on a farm in a rural, agricultural economy,” said Gossels. “We didn’t know what would happen in the future, but we were happy.”

When the war progressed, it was no longer safe for the Jewish children to stay in Chabannes. Gossels and his younger brother were among 200 Jewish refugees who received visas to come to America through the help of Eleanor Roosevelt, whom Gossels says he “owes his life to.”

He then traveled to Boston, where a family took in him and his brother. The two boys would never see their parents again, and would later find out that their mother, grandmother, and aunt were all killed in Auschwitz.

“My mother was an innocent person who had a very hard life. If I could talk to her again I would tell her about my life and thank her for saving me,” Gossels told the students.

Despite the economic troubles and hardships, Gossels attended Boston Latin School before graduating from Harvard University and Harvard Law School. He is now a successful lawyer in Boston who has argued before the Supreme Court. Gossels is married with three children, all of whom attended Brown University.

Gossels’ life is featured in the 1999 documentary, “The Children of Chabannes,” which was produced and directed by his daughter, Lisa Gossels. She won a 2001 Emmy Award and 10 film festival awards for the documentary. The students of Lynnfield Middle School watched this documentary prior to Gossels’ visit.

“I think it makes such a difference for the students to see someone behind the stories that they read about in class,” said eighth grade English teacher Deborah Dinardi.

Lynnfield Middle School hopes Gossels will return to speak to students again next year.