Nazi Barbarism (04:04)
Germany invaded Poland in 1939. Benjamin Lesser's family was pistol whipped and robbed; his parents were shot and his oldest brother was sent to a concentration camp. He and his other siblings escaped to Hungary, which was invaded on March 19th, 1944. He describes death and suffering on the train to Auschwitz. (Credits)
Divided for Labor and Death (03:08)
At Auschwitz, Lesser was separated from family, some put into slavery, others gassed. A guard informs him of gruesome Nazi practices and his likely fate; those not killed still faced torture, starvation, and random execution. One million Jews were murdered at the facility; thousands of camps across Europe killed another five million.
Only Mass Rescue by America (05:10)
Ben Alalouf was born in a Yugoslavian bomb shelter and spent his early years evading capture; family members were killed by Nazis. President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order temporarily allowing 1000 refugees entrance to the U.S.; the USS Henry Gibbins was deployed to Italy.
Death March (04:27)
Lesser describes performing heavy labor; by late 1944, Nazis were losing the war and moving concentration camp prisoners to Germany. He recalls walking 250 miles with his cousin; survivors were shuttled to Dachau. They were liberated by the American army on April 29, 1945.
Escape From the Holocaust (04:09)
On August 3rd, 1944, Alalouf reached New York; he was sent to Safe Haven in Oswego. His friendship with a Yugloslavian girl, "Seka," helped socialize him. He has not seen her since he moved after President Truman gave refugees the right to stay in the U.S.
Saint Ottilien Archabbey (06:38)
Lesser tours the German monastery where he recovered after the Holocaust. He shared a bed with another survivor, Mosheh Opatowski; they became family. They joined other Jewish orphans and planned to establish a homeland in Palestine; Lesser chose to visit his sister instead of going on his mission.
New Life in America (03:42)
Alalouf's family moved to Brooklyn in 1946. He visits the Safe Haven Museum hoping to learn "Seka's" name. Judy Rapaport traces by alternative information, finding 12 possible names; she sends an email to their families requesting help with identification.
Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database (04:14)
Lesser established the Zachor Remembrance Foundation. He confers with Jordana Gesler, the director of education at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, and learns that Opatowski moved to Israel. They review photos, and find a filmed testimony stored at Shoah Foundation.
Arranging a Reunion (03:13)
Rapaport relays a lead to Alalouf, a former refugee, named Simon Kalderon. "Seka" is his sister; her real name is Flora Friedman.
Finding Closure (03:51)
Shoah Foundation archives testimonies of genocide survivors, including that of Opatowski. Lesser watches the interview and hears old his friend refer to him as a close brother. Executive Director Stephen Smith relays the news of Opatowski's death in 2012; his family would like to meet Lesser.
Reuniting With "Seka" (03:01)
Alalouf meets Friedman at Centennial Park in Tennessee. Her family moved to Baltimore after leaving Safe Haven; she now has two sons and grandchildren. They reminisce and plan to stay in contact.
Family Reunion (06:56)
Lesser travels to Israel to meet Opatowski's children; they discuss his brotherly bond with their father. His friend forged a life and community in Yehiam; like Lesser, he was a Holocaust educator. Lesser discusses finding closure and new friendships.
Credits: Surviving the Holocaust (00:31)
Credits: Surviving the Holocaust
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