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Oral history interview with Pearl Benisch

Oral History | Accession Number: 2011.177.11 | RG Number: RG-50.677.0011

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

Pearl Benisch, born in 1917, discusses her parents, Reb Leib and Chaya Fraida Mandelker; a teacher who gave her son to non-Jewish family so he could survive and a toddler's awareness of antisemitism, even at three years old; being a protégé of Sarah Schenirer (Shnirer), who began the Bais Ya’akov movement (Orthodox Jewish girls schools, also called Beth Jacob Schools); observing Schenirer’s burial in 1935; writing a biography on Schenirer called “Carry Me In Your Heart”; her family and classmates being deported to the Krakow ghetto; accounts of the Bais Ya’akov girls' support of each other; stories of prisoners singing to cope with starvation and torturous factory labor; a prisoner risking life for a small piece of bread and tossing it to 30-40 people scrambling to receive it; the liquidation of the Krakow ghetto in 1941; the split up of her family; her brother being deported to Theresienstadt (he survived the war); saying good-bye to her parents, who did not survive; being sent with the Bais Ya’akov girls to Płaszów camp; doing forced labor, sewing soldier uniforms; being transported to Auschwitz (Birkenau); witnessing the camp guards ripping a child from a mother, then shooting both to teach others a lesson; witnessing Jews having to jump into pits to be shot (a few singing as they jumped in); enduring beatings; a prisoner sneaking shofar into Auschwitz and blowing it; Rebbetzin Tzila Sorotzkin, the “White Angel of Auschwitz” (formerly “Orlean", also known as “Tillie Rinder”); a notable Bais Yaakov teacher, who after being imprisoned, served as an Auschwitz infirmary nurse/secretary and thwarted killings of countless Jews (and also dared to light candles in the barracks); her Bais Ya’akov classmate, Rivkah Horowitz-Pinkusewitz, who stood up to Gestapo, risking her life for Pearl and others; being transported to Bergen-Belsen; how almost all the prisoners were very sick (many dying); being forced to sew six tops a day for half a piece of bread; trying to observe Shabbos by sewing extra sets on all the other days of the week and turning in those sets on Shabbos; liberation; the soldiers dusting barracks to kill lice; the assistance from Zionist organizations and various rabbis, including British Chaplain Rabbi Baumgarten; staying in a displaced persons (DP) camp; establishing a kosher kitchen; her message to young people “Love thyself; once you love yourself, you can love others”; and her memoir “To Vanquish the Dragon.”

Interviewee
Ms. Pearl Benisch
Interviewer
Dr. Henri Lustiger Thaler
Date
2013 October 29  (interview)
Language
English
Extent
1 digital file : MPEG-4.
Credit Line
This testimony was recorded through a joint project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Amud Aish Memorial Museum Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center.
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Record last modified: 2018-04-09 11:39:05
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn607893