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 Benjamin 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, his father wouldn't leave the house. Benjamin became his family's "messenger," running errands along with their housekeeper's son. He and Benjamin had lived in different worlds before the war--now they were together every day.
1940-44: When the Lodz ghetto was sealed in April 1940, Benjamin managed to smuggle all he could from their old house into their new quarters in the ghetto. Then in 1944, when Benjamin was 14, his family was rounded up and loaded onto cattle cars on one of the last transports from the ghetto. One of the first in his car, Benjamin 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 Benjamin no longer had any doubts about their destination.
Benjamin was deported to Auschwitz, and later to a forced-labor camp in Hanover, Germany. After the war, at age 16, he immigrated to Palestine with a group of orphans.