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Oral history interview with Paul Benko

Oral History | Accession Number: 1999.A.0122.754 | RG Number: RG-50.477.0754

Some video files begin with 10-60 seconds of color bars.

Paul Benko was an only child, born in 1929 in Cluj, Transylvania (Romania). At age four, his parents were divorced and thereafter he lived first with his mother, and later with his father. During the war years, his mother operated an "underground railroad," assisting and hiding fleeing people, and as part of the organization had attempted to form an orphanage. She was arrested as a subversive but was unexpectedly released from a jail after about three months later.

In the spring of 1944, the Jewish community of Cluj was deported, and Mr. Benko was transported with his father to a Hungarian work camp, and later to concentration camps in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Kaufering, Kaufbeuren, and Dachau. His mother died in Auschwitz; his father survived until Dachau, and then died there of illness. Mr. Benko was also ill in Dachau and underwent surgery without anaesthetic at an infirmary there.

Mr. Benko was liberated on May 1, 1945 by Allied forces and thereafter lived and/or worked at displaced persons camps in Seefeld, Mittenwald and Garmisch-Partenkirchen. He was hired as a translator due to his multilingual skills, and participated in the interrogation of German prisoners at the latter camp, which became a war criminals camp. An American couple, the vaudeville dance team of "Dancing Rochelle and Beebe," who entertained Allied troops with the USO, adopted him. He traveled with them and the USO show for a time after the war, to places such as Salzburg and Paris. His adoptive parents secured him passage from Bordeaux to New York, via the steamship Nelson W. Aldrich. In New York, he was greeted by the Hebrew Aid Society, and stayed at first with a friend of his adoptive parents. He subsequently moved to Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, California. Mr. Benko is deceased.

Interviewee
Paul Benko
Date
1990 December 12  (interview)
1991 March 20  (interview)
1991 May 22  (interview)
1991 July 23  (interview)
Language
English
Genre/Form
Oral histories.
Extent
7 videocassettes (SVHS) : sound, color ; 1/2 in..
Credit Line
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, acquired from Jewish Family and Children's Services of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties
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Record last modified: 2018-01-22 11:23:47
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn515677