“There is a little bit of evil in all of us'” Holocaust survivor Ben Lesser…
by Royal Hopper
Ben Lesser’s voice is strong as he talks about smell of the smoke coming from the smoke stacks at Auswitz, and Buchenwald. He speaks in a clam practiced voice as he talks about the orange flames belching the smoke and the ashes that were human beings minutes before and though his voice shakes on occasion he is surprisingly calm when he talks about the “cultured” people who put him in that hell.
“They became monster’s,” Lesser explained to a group of students at a Basic High School Wednesday. He told the crowd of teens about his family’s desperate flight from the Nazis Holocaust and remembered the dark days when the Nazis came to Krakow, Poland where they lived.
Lesser was 11-years-of-age.
“I come from an era when human beings lost their humanity,” he said.
Warned of coming troubles the family fled losing every dime of the $1,000 Lesser’s father had saved when the book they had hidden in was confiscated for burning. His father baked pretzels to survive and then cookies eventually arriving at a recipe for Mandelbrot a kind of Jewish biscotti Lesser said.
Every family had a hiding place where they would wait out Nazis patrols. His sister Lola and her fiancé were kicked out of their hiding place in a doghouse and spent the night
in water filled hiding place where he had spent a frigid Polish winter night from hiding Nazis death squads.
The family emerged from their frigid hiding place and discovered those hiding in the doghouse had been discovered, dragged out and shot or torn to bits.
Lesser and several member of his family were caught and went from one camp to another eventually ending up in Buchewald, Hungary. He remembers waiting in line where a man in sterile white gloves and a white lab coat looked at each one asked them a question and gestured right or left. Those that went left died that night those that went right survived for a time to work for the Nazis war machine.
Lesser remembered how not knowing what else to do he snapped to attention and shouted he was 18-years old and he was healthy. He went right and survived.
The gold teeth and jewelry of the victims was recovered and the hair of the victims shorn off and sent back to Germany.
“They industrialized death. They made a business out of it,” he said remembering his time in the concentration camp.
His voice is strong as he about the joy he felt discovering his sister was still alive and the pain he felt from the memories of those who did not survive the cruelty inflicted on them _ and his voice is strong as he talks about the importance of telling this story again and again so it is not forgotten how even civilized cultured people can become monsters.
“A little bit of evil lives in all of us,” Lesser said adding that if it wins in enough of us we all lose.
His voice is strong as he talks about his cousin who having survived the camps died of dysentery in his rail thin arms after eating the first real food, a can of spam, he had consumed in years.
Ben Lesser seems disappointed when only one person in the sparse crowd asks a question after his presentation the pain is obvious but so is the relief on his face that one more telling of the great evil is finally done.
Seven decades have passed since his family was torn apart by the great evil that enveloped the word and destroyed more than 35 million lives but the pain is still obvious on his face as he talks about. After seven decades the images of the flames and smoke from the burning the bodies of his friends and family still haunt the corner of his mind.
These days Benjamin Lesser spends his remaining energy on Zachor the Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, the foundation he founded to help educate new generations on the evils that befell so many innocents and promoting his book…
Living A Life That Matters: From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream.
It is important, he said, to remember all the souls of all faiths and countries the Holocaust claimed and to remember that it monsters only grow when civilized people allow it.
“Remember no tyrant succeeds on his own.”