Ever since I heard the detailed story of holocaust survivor Ben Fainer, I’ve been haunted by Ben’s story. His video interview is about an hour long and it is riveting.
I was sick for most of the past four days, including two days on which I barely crawled out of bed. I had a fever, my muscles ached, I had chest congestion and migraine headaches and I couldn’t think straight. I’m better now, but while I was at my sickest, I wondered how Ben survived Nazi concentration camps for six years, even through the sicknesses that people periodically experience, especially when they were in the process of being starved. Ben just happened to call me yesterday (on another matter), and I took the opportunity to ask him: What would happen at Buchenwald if a prisoner was so sick that he was unable to report for work duty on even one occasion.
“The system was simple. If you didn’t report for work, several people would go inside the barracks to pick you up, and they would walk you over to the crematorium oven, which was burning 24 hours a day. Even if you were still alive, they would throw you into the oven. I saw this happen and I heard the screams.”
I still can’t conceive of how a young boy could have survived this horror, even as he aged into a teenager during his six years of captivity. And I’m so very lucky to live in a situation where sickness is usually not life-threatening, either biologically or socially.