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Oral history interview with Pearl Benisch

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

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    Oral history interview with Pearl Benisch


    Interview Summary
    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.”
    Ms. Pearl Benisch
    Dr. Henri Lustiger Thaler
    interview:  2013 October 29
    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.

    Physical Details

    1 digital file : MPEG-4.

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    Administrative Notes

    The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, in partnership with the Amud Aish Memorial Museum's Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center, produced the interview with Pearl Benisch on October 29, 2013.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this oral history interview has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-11-16 09:26:14
    This page:

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