Ben Lesser

Ben Lesser was born in Kraków, Poland in 1928. He was born into a family of seven, consisting of his mother, father, two sisters and two brothers. After the German army invaded Poland, the Lesser’s were subject to countless amounts of abuse brought on by the Nazi soldiers. Together with his family, Ben avoided ending up in the Krakow Ghetto, managed to escape a Nazi pogrom, and lived through the notorious Bochnia Ghetto.

Ben would go on to survive even more unimaginable circumstances including four concentration camps, two death trains, and one death march. After so much suffering, he was liberated in Dachau in 1945. Ben and his older sister, Lola, would turn out to be the only remaining survivors out of his immediate family.

At the age of 18, Ben began a new life for himself. He traveled to America without any money or education. He lived briefly in Brooklyn where he went to night-school to learn English before settling in Los Angeles. During his time in Los Angeles, Ben achieved the American Dream. He met the love of his life, Jean Singer, and married her in 1950. The young couple went on to have their two daughters, Sherry and Gail. Ben obtained his Real Estate license and had two successful Real Estate offices, “Ben Lesser & Associates”.

Ben retired in 1995 and moved to Las Vegas, Nevada. Since then, he has devoted his time as a volunteer, telling his story at schools and colleges. Ben founded ZACHOR Holocaust Remembrance Foundation in 2009, dedicated to spreading awareness and ensuring the remembrance of the Holocaust. Ben also published his first memoir, “LIVING A LIFE THAT MATTERS: from Nazi Nightmare to American Dream”, in 2011. In his inspirational biography, he speaks about his journey before and after being liberated.

Today, Ben and Jean are grandparents to multiple grandchildren and have celebrated over 60 years of marriage. Ben Lesser continues to dedicate his life to sharing his testimony in hopes to prevent these atrocities from ever occurring again.

Now travel back in time to experience the journey that Ben went through during the Holocaust. Learn about the different concentration camps, death trains, and death march that he experienced.

Family of Seven

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…

Nazis Invade Poland

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…

Avoiding the Kraków Ghetto

Mechel, the man who intended to marry Ben’s older sister Lola, provided the Lesser family an opportunity to move out of town. With the agreement of Ben’s father, he had made arrangements for the family to live in Niepolomice (Lesser, 67). Without…

Life in the Bochnia Ghetto

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…

Return to Munkacs

Mechel had arranged a plan for the entire family to escape to Hungary. To do so, he had bribed a coal-truck driver to add a false bottom to his truck, which could smuggle them out in small groups (Lesser, 92). Lola and Mechel chose to go first,…

Arriving at the Death Factory

In May of 1944, Ben took his first journey of deportation within a cattle car. Divided into groups of eighty per car, Ben went with his brother Tuli, his cousin Isaac, his aunt and uncle, and his sister Goldie (Lesser, 108). Ben has gone on to say,…

Extreme Punishment

In June of 1944, Ben was transported to a rock quarry labor camp in Durnhau. The labor camp was a sub-camp of the Gross-Rosen concentration camp (Lesser, 121). Fortunately, he had not been separated from Isaac and his Uncle. Here, the manual labor…

The Death March

It was winter when Ben and Isaac began the journey on foot. They had no warm clothes or shoes to face the harsh weather and they were rarely fed (Lesser, 131). While on this treacherous journey, it became obvious to Ben that the intent of the march…

The Death Train

In March of 1945, they were transported in the filthy cattle cars once again (Lesser, 133). Ben had led his weak cousin to the back end of the car so that they could support themselves against the wall (Lesser, 135). Unfortunately, when bread was…

Start of a New Life

In 1947, Ben embarked on a two week journey upon the SS Ernie Pyle to America (Lesser, 147). The steam ship dropped him off at the New York Harbor. After arriving, Ben moved into an apartment in Brooklyn with Lola and Mechel (Lesser, 183). During…

The American Dream

In the summer of 1949, Ben took a four-day greyhound bus ride from New York to Los Angeles (Lesser, 188). His life in Los Angeles began with a rocky start. He was living in a dollar-a-night hotel on Skid Row (Lesser, 189). Unable to find work, he had…

Retirement

In 1995, Ben and Jean moved to Las Vegas, Nevada to retire and settle down. By now they were grandparents to multiple grandchildren. That same year, Ben spoke about the Holocaust at his grandson’s elementary school (Lesser, 267). This was Ben’s first…