Life in the Bochnia Ghetto

Bochnia, Poland

Ben’s parents decided they needed to escape to the closest town, which was Bochnia. Again, Mechel had been able to arrange an apartment in the Bochnia Ghetto for them to stay. That same night, they snuck out of town. Although it was an effort to avoid the pogrom in Niepolomice, Bochnia was not a desired “choice” as much as a chance to survive (Lesser, 75).

The city was notorious for its anti-Jewish brutality within the ghetto, specifically targeted against the Jewish children (Lesser, 76). At one point, Nazis were “eliminating” as many children as possible. Even with all this in mind, the Lesser’s were lucky to have made the choice when they did. The same night they had left, all of the Jewish residents within Niepolomice that were discovered, were murdered (Lesser, 76).

The living conditions in which the Lesser family endured within the Bochnia ghetto were unimaginable. Ben, his younger brother, Tuli, and their parents moved into a single room with eight strangers who had already been living there (Lesser, 77). With twelve people crowded into such a small living space, there was no privacy. Every day, Ben and the other men did manual labor such as digging ditches. If they were able to work, only then would they be able to receive the barely edible rations from the Nazis. Every night, Ben and the rest of his “roommates” slept on blankets thrown over straw on the floor (Lesser, 77). The lifestyle began to become a routine to 14-year-old Ben.

That is until one day; the Lesser’s were told to hide because another pogrom was near. Ben and the other eleven occupants of the room hid together behind a large armoire in their room (Lesser, 79). There was a space behind a secret back panel of the cabinet that was closed off by the outside. They all managed to squeeze into the space and remain undiscovered all night while Nazi soldiers and vicious dogs searched all houses and buildings. The next morning, everyone who had survived walked out to a gruesome sight. There were corpses and pieces of body parts all throughout the streets. Rather than being able to mourn or give proper burials to the deceased, survivors were forced to pile the bodies up before the Nazi’s set them on fire (Lesser, 80).

In time, Ben and his family were able to move into an apartment outside of the ghetto due to the Hungarian Citizenship cards that Lola had obtained for the entire family (Lesser, 92).