Ben Goldstop

I was born in Chechanow, Poland where I lived for the first eighteen years of my life. One of eight children, I was the only one to survive the Holocaust.

My family was taken on a train to be "relocated" to a concentration camp, but I was left behind because the train car was full. I watched, unable to say good-bye, as my family left. I later learned that my family was taken to Treblinka, a killing center in Poland.
I was deported to Birkenau, the first of six camps I would survive. I was alone. Birkenau was the worst camp because there were barely walls for the buildings, and the ground was knee-deep in mud. The conditions were horrible, and I was still getting used to the shock of it all. I did not believe I could survive. I suffered many beatings and starvation and saw little children being thrown into the crematory alive.

After Birkenau, I was sent to Buna, Jawozna, Auschwitz, Mauthausen, and Gusen camps. At one point, I was working in an ammunition factory and cut off my finger in a press. Initially I wrapped what was left of my finger and kept working but the wound became infected, and I knew I would be killed if the Nazis discovered this. I bit my hand to puncture the wound and drain the infection. It saved me from death.

After the war, I went to Austria where I was aided by a Jewish organization, then went to Italy and finally to Israel. I found I had a cousin in America, so I came to Rochester, New York to live. I married in 1964 and got a job in a machine shop called Farrel Company where I started at the bottom and worked my way up. I never expected to survive and I still find it difficult to explain. It's unbelievable that a human being can live through what I did.

Your life was always on the line. Sometimes you did not even want to make it through the "selection." You had nothing, so what did you have to lose? I believe it was this attitude that kept me alive.

Biography from the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project, Monroe Community College
Photograph by Louis Ouzer