Ben’s Bio

More About Ben

Born in Warsaw, Poland, September 21, 1921, Ben grew up in Warsaw and Mogielnice, a small town outside of Warsaw.
Raised by religious parents, he was part of a large family of children.




After attending the Piaseczno Yeshiva in Warsaw (Jewish High School) for a year, he began to work, helping out the family in the general store owned by his grandmother in Mogielnice.

He was 19 years old on September 8th, 1939 when the Nazis invaded Mogielnice, Poland and his world began to fall apart.


During the Holocaust, Ben lived through:


Two Ghettos
Nine Camps
Celten Lager
Two Death Marches
January, 1945
April, 1945


Liberated by the American Army on May 8, 1945 in Lebanau by Lauffen, near the Austrian border,
Ben was 24 years old and weighed 78 pounds at liberation.


Ben soon met his future wife, Helen Kielmanowicz in Bergen-Belson, a displaced persons camp. Married two months later, they left Europe and arrived in America on May 15, 1946, on the “Marine Flasher,” the first ship carrying displaced persons from Europe.

In the years that followed, Ben built a full life with Helen. Ben and Helen raised three children, managed a successful business and were active in their community. In 1959, they moved to Skokie, Illinois.


In 1976, hate mail was first delivered into every Skokie mailbox. It was the start of a Nazi campaign waging hatred and fear among the many survivors who lived there. Later, the world’s first Holocaust denial book was published out of Northwestern University.

In 1977 when the first date for the Nazi march was made public, Ben was the first to stand up and publicly oppose the Nazi event. With a few other survivor leaders, Ben worked tirelessly for more than a year to grow support and persuade the public, government, religious communities and Jewish organizations to oppose the planned march.



For over five decades Ben has spoken to hundreds of audiences, of all ages, across America. His life story is featured in the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He and Helen now live in Berkeley, California. They have three grown children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.


This documentary film was conceived in 2011, as Ben led a group of 29 high school students through Poland. As lead educator, Ben traveled and stood with them on the sites of significant personal and historical events. He brought history to life through his unforgettable journey and by his insistence on both surviving and remaining human through it all — a story that continues to inspire all who traveled with him.

The students came together through an extraordinary organization, named Shalhevet, a learning, experiential program for students, 17-18 years-old.