Family of Seven

Kraków, Poland

Ben Lesser was born on October 18, 1928 in Kraków, Poland. He was born into a Jewish, middle-class family of seven. He had an older brother, Moishe, two older sisters, Lola and Goldie, and a younger brother, Naftali, whom they called Tuli. Ben’s parents, Shaindel (Shari) and Lazar Lesser, had both come from well-known Orthodox Jewish families (Lesser, 22). Ben’s father was a very driven man who worked hard to provide for his family. He owned two successful businesses, a kosher wine and fruit-syrup manufacturing business and as well as a chocolate factory. His chocolate factory produced chocolate-covered wafers which could be compared to the American Kit Kat bar we know today (Lesser, 28). Growing up, Ben lived in two separate homes depending on the season. During the school-year, the family lived in Kraków, Poland. During the summer, they lived in Munkács in order to spend time with their mother’s side of the family (Lesser, 28).

Due to the frequently changing government circumstances at the time, Munkács could sometimes be a part of Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland or Hungary (Lesser, 29). Today, it is known as Mukachevo and it is a part of Ukraine.

Before Germany invaded Poland, Ben’s life was not much different from children in other middle-class families. He had the opportunity to practice his religion, pursue an education, and take part in an abundant cultural life. Although they were aware of the anti-Semitism that had existed throughout Europe at the time, the Lesser family had remained mainly unphased by it (Lesser, 34). That is, until the German Occupation began on September 1, 1939.