Oral History

Benjamin (Ben) Meed describes Warsaw after the German occupation in 1939 and first experiencing antisemitism

Ben was one of four children born to a religious Jewish family. Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. After the Germans occupied Warsaw, Ben decided to escape to Soviet-occupied eastern Poland. However, he soon decided to return to his family, then in the Warsaw ghetto. Ben was assigned to a work detail outside the ghetto, and helped smuggle people out of the ghetto—including Vladka (Fagele) Peltel, a member of the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), who later became his wife. Later, he went into hiding outside the ghetto and posed as a non-Jewish Pole. During the Warsaw ghetto uprising in 1943, Ben worked with other members of the underground to rescue ghetto fighters, bringing them out through the sewers and hiding them on the "Aryan" side of Warsaw. From the "Aryan" side of Warsaw, Ben witnessed the burning of the Warsaw ghetto during the uprising. After the uprising, Ben escaped from Warsaw by posing as a non-Jew. Following liberation, he was reunited with his father, mother, and younger sister.


The war [the German invasion] came to an end, and the Germans marched in. Then starts a different chapter of my life. We were all hungry. I do remember the first days when the German came in. It was a parade. I was not coming to that parade because it's not in our neighborhood. I was living in the Jewish section. But I recall that...I know that people told us there was a parade in the...in the main areas where the Germans, the victorious Germans, marched into Poland. And...uh...everybody was more interested in that time in finding a piece of bread. Finally, we heard that a few trucks arrived at the corner not far where I was living and...uh...they were giving out bread. So naturally, I am the first one of the family...the young people, me and my brother and my sis...my sister, we all run to the...to the places where they giving...uh...truck...where the bread arrived. And...uh...that's true. We saw the trucks with, looking only at the big trucks with bread, our eyes shined up that we're going to get a piece of bread. There were so many people were waiting in the line, the bread was not given out. There were two Germans on the...uh...trucks throwing out the breads and there, and there I saw there were in that time cameras filming this whole thing, how they throwing bread to the population. And I was also waiting to grab a loaf of bread, but...uh...somehow I was recognized by one of my neighbors. He says, "What are you doing here? This is bread for the Poles." I says, "So I'm here." He says, "You a Jew." That was the first day when I was probably shocked and will never forget.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
View Archival Details

This content is available in the following languages

Thank you for supporting our work

We would like to thank Crown Family Philanthropies and the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for the Holocaust Encyclopedia. View the list of all donors.