Benjamin Bornstein


Benjamin and his younger brother Zigmush were born to Jewish parents in the industrial city of Lodz. Lodz was Poland’s second biggest city before the war, and one-third of its inhabitants were Jewish. Benjamin’s father, Moshe, owned a candle factory, and his mother, Brona, was a nurse. 

1933-39: In 1939, as I began the third grade, the Germans occupied Lodz. Jews were forbidden to ride buses, and were ordered to wear yellow stars. Because the Germans sometimes grabbed Jews off the streets for forced labor, my father wouldn’t leave the house. I became our family’s “messenger,” running errands along with our housekeeper’s son. He and I had lived in different worlds before the war–now we were together every day. 

1940-44: When the Lodz ghetto was sealed in April 1940, I managed to smuggle all I could from our old house into our new quarters in the ghetto. Then in 1944, when I was 14, our family was rounded up and loaded onto cattle cars on one of the last transports from the ghetto. One of the first in my car, I saw a message scrawled in blood on the wall: “We have arrived in Auschwitz and here they finish us off!” The message was hidden when the car filled up, but now I no longer had any doubts about our destination. 

Benjamin was deported to Auschwitz, and later to a forced-labor camp in Hanover, Germany. After the war, at age 16, he emigrated to Palestine with a group of orphans. 

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