Ben Stern

Ben Stern

Born: September 21, 1921

Warsaw, Poland

Ben was born to Jewish parents in Warsaw. When Ben was 7, his family moved to Mogielnica, about 40 miles from Warsaw. Ben's father spent much of his time studying religious texts. His wife managed the family liquor store. Ben attended public school during the day and was tutored in religious studies in the evening.

1933-39: After attending school in Warsaw, I returned home to help in our liquor store. One day, there was a mass demonstration in town. People chanted, "Don't buy from the Jews!" Our Christian neighbor said the priest encouraged this in his sermon. I was afraid I'd be seized for forced labor when Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. My family agreed that I should leave town. I boarded a train bound for Soviet-occupied Poland.

1940-44: In July 1942 I was deported from the Warsaw ghetto to the Majdanek concentration camp. There, I was assigned to wash potatoes. When my legs became badly swollen, I had to go to the hospital, even though sick prisoners were the first to be killed. But the SS man assigned to the kitchen protected me for two weeks and I recovered. Later, the same SS man caught another prisoner stealing turnips. Enraged, he took a pitchfork and drove it into the prisoner's throat, killing him. Then he ordered me to clean up "the mess."

Ben was one of the few survivors of a forced march from Buchenwald to the Tyrolian mountains near the Austrian border. He was liberated by the U.S. Army on May 3, 1945.