One morning in Kraków, a group of Nazis had broken into the Lesser’s apartment. The entire family was beaten with pistols and their apartment was ransacked (Lesser, 60). After being attacked, 10-year-old Ben watched helplessly as even worse happened to the Jewish family across the hall. He saw one of the Nazis ruthlessly murder their infant boy (Lesser, 60). Sadly, this instance of horrific Nazi brutality would turn out only to be first of many that Ben Lesser was yet to endure.
Within a few weeks of the German invasion, the Lesser family’s life in Kraków was erased. It began the earliest stage in Hitler’s Final Solution. First, all Jewish businesses, including Ben’s fathers, were forcefully confiscated and the remaining businesses were no longer allowed to hire Jewish employees (Lesser, 58). Soon after, each Jewish resident had to register with the authorities, receiving a new identity card with a large “J” imprinted on it for JUDE (Lesser, 59). Jewish children were banned from all public schools, cutting Ben’s education off at the level of 6th grade. They were also forced to wear an armband with the Jewish Star of David on them. If anyone were to be caught without wearing it, they would be shot on the spot (Lesser, 59). All synagogues were closed and ransacked (Lesser, 61).
There was an undeniable amount of barbaric harassment being performed. Ben’s father had endured a significantly cruel assault himself. Nazis held him down, viciously cut off his beard, and then continued to beat him until he was unrecognizable (Lesser, 61). This attack was considered a source of entertainment to the German soldiers doing it. It was also a form of spiritual torture considering the importance of a beard to an Orthodox Jewish man (Lesser, 61). Although there were many other cruel implications set forth in Kraków during this time, those specifically mentioned above are those that Ben or his family members personally came in contact with.
The Kraków Ghetto was created on March 3, 1941 and was located in a squalid part of the town, near the train tracks (Lesser, 63). Ben and his family, along with thousands of other Jewish families, were given the “option” to leave everything behind and move into this ghetto (Lesser, 64).