Tuesday, November 29, 2016

An amazing piece of history, and what happened to it


Some stories simply boggle the mind.  This is one of them.

The blue and grey stripes struck Jillian Eisman like a lightning bolt.

She was rummaging through a packed closet during a Long Island tag sale when she immediately recognized the symbol of horror and hate: a jacket worn by a prisoner at the Nazi Dachau concentration camp during World War II.

"I knew exactly what it was, even before I saw the numbers (84679 on the chest)," said Eisman, who purchased the jacket for $2 at the sale last year and donated it to the Kupferberg Holocaust Center in New York City.

Curators there not only put the jacket on display, but also unearthed the story of the person who wore it: a teenager forced to make munitions for the German war effort, spent four years in a relocation camp and then came to America, never telling his children much about Dachau or that he kept the jacket.

The story of Benzion Peresecki — who later became Ben Peres — is told in extraordinary detail, thanks largely to the serial number and careful records that he kept and that his daughter found long after he died.

. . .

Eisman, whose 24-year-old brother, Joshua Birnbaum, was killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, said she feels "everything happens for a reason."

"There is a reason why I was supposed to be in that house. ... There is a reason why I was friends with someone who worked at a Holocaust museum. What are the chances of that? It is difficult to say everything is a coincidence."

There's more at the link.

The jacket is going on special exhibition, and may travel around the country - or perhaps even further afield.  Here's a video about the proposed exhibition and associated material.





Personally, I don't think Ms. Eisman finding Mr. Peresecki's jacket was a coincidence at all . . . but then, I'm a man of faith.  YMMV, of course.

May Mr. Peresecki, and all those who died in the Holocaust, rest in what peace they may find.

Peter

7 comments:

James Buchanan said...

One of my neighbors, when I was a kid, lived thru that. He had the wrist tattoos, one day, I asked him about them, interesting fellow. Some days later, he told the story, that's when his son learned the story, and our neighborhood. Small neighborhood, big story.

Jim said...

I've known several Holocaust survivors down through the years. Many wouldn't talk about it though some did. One I knew was a Polish survivor of Auschwitz. Leon was in line to be gassed when he was pulled out. It seems they found out he was a shoemaker and that was deemed a usable skill. The rest of his family was not so lucky. One day I encountered him, and while he was generally cheerful by nature, he was looking down that day. "If the Nazis hadn't killed him, my son would have been 60 years old today." He's gone now, but I hope he's finally resting easy.

RHT447 said...

These are my remarks elsewhere from a few years back---

"I was stationed in (formerly) West Germany during the mid-70's. During a weeklong R&R, my buddy and I decided to take a tour of Dachau. For me, it proved to be an epiphany, although not for the reasons anyone might think at first.

My father was a B17 pilot during WWII and flew 35 combat missions over Europe. Among other things, this sparked my keen interest in WWII history, so I had read about the concentration camps long before I went on the tour.

It's times like this that I wish I had a better command of the English language. The best I can come up with to describe the tour is that it brings on a cascade of emotions, some seemingly contradictory.
The first thing we saw was this--

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dachau_concentration_camp#mediaviewer/File:Arbeit_Macht_Frei_Dachau_8235.jpg

--which translates to "Work will make (you) free." It is both grotesque propaganda and macabre prophecy.

It was a bright, sunny day that seemed somehow inappropriate for the occasion and at the same time a reminder that life moves on.

Everyone on the tour speaks in quiet voices, walks softly, as if at a funeral, which is as it should be.

One side of your brain digests all the numbers and photos and other input, while the other side just cannot wrap itself around the totality of horror that went on there for years. At the same time, I felt a sense of pride that I wore the uniform of one of the armies that put an end to it.

When I was there, the ovens were still in place, doors open, with ash still inside. There was a simple rope barrier about five feet in front. A metallic glint caught my eye in one of the ovens. As I leaned over the rope for a closer look, I saw that it was an expended camera flash cube. Someone had tossed their trash into an oven at Dachau. Thus came my epiphany.

The battle against evil is not over, will never be over. Evil will always be aided by apathy and deliberate ignorance, and fueled mostly by envy and greed. I agree with the old saw that there is nothing new under the sun. However, there are new generations who need to be taught their history.

Andrew said...

Was in my 9th grade math class when some jerk student mouthed off about how the Holocaust was fake. The very reserved teacher just went white and even more quiet for the rest of the day.

The next day we all came in for math class, and the teacher said he would be taking a vacation for a while, so he was going to show some pictures instead. Turns out the teacher was a war photographer for the US Army, and was in a unit that liberated a concentration camp.

The photos were as horrible as you could imagine.

And people survived those camps. The power of the human spirit is amazing.

Anonymous said...

When I saw this post, I felt a bit of a chill run up my back -

The sights that jacket saw...

In 1996, I worked (on contract) and lived, for just-on six months, in/near Ruesselsheim, Germany, which is very near to Frankfurt am Main. My wife came over to visit for just over two months' time, and we took trips, mostly by train, every weekend (plus a couple of added days I took off work, for the longer-distance trips), covering a fairly-wide span of middle-Europe. The last trip we took, in early September, just before she had to return to the U.S., was to Munich, primarily to go to Octoberfest. Having "done" the Festival, however, we had the afternoon on Sunday before taking the train back North, and decided to visit and tour Dachau - it's not far, just at the outer edge of the city.

It's a definitely-spooky place.

It was primarily - always - a work-camp...the gas chambers there were completed, but were never used after an initial "testing", we were told. The ammunition plant where Mr. Peres undoubtedly worked while there was adjacent to the camp itself; it's gone, now, torn down long ago. The crematoria, however, got plenty of use nonetheless - the camp inmates were, quite simply, worked to death. Underfed, underclothed and underhoused in mostly-unheated barracks, they died with regularity...and the bodies were cremated; the remains - "cremains" - were removed by some of the still-living, the same ones who loaded the bodies into the ovens, the Sonderkommandos, and piled into large mounds along the same side of the camp compound as the crematorium facility, beyond the end of the buildings housing the ovens and the unused gas chambers.

There are markers on the mounds, which are now ivy-covered, with the origins of the people whose remains - mostly - went into each mound denoted on the cement markers...Yes, the Germans - ever-methodical, ever-meticulous - separated the various ethnicities/origins into different mounds, and kept careful, somewhat-detailed records of what(who) went where...

It was a bright, soft September afternoon - and it's probably purely subjective, but - it seemed the light was just a bit dimmer within the compound's still-present wired fencing.

I know it seemed to be very quiet, there - I don't recall hearing any birds singing there, though there were some in the trees not far away.

Like I said: Spooky...

I'm glad we went - but I've no real desire to go again, though it stands out in my mind to this day.

J. S. Bridges
Wilmington, NC

Bob said...

In July of 1982 as a 16-year-old who thought he knew something about WW2, I had the opportunity to visit Buchenwald with my father. We're German (my GGF immigrated), and had cousins who died on both the Eastern and Western Fronts in service to the Fatherland. We had cousins still in East Germany.

Even 34 years later, I struggle to put into words what I saw there.

Anonymous said...

One of the Dutch nurserymen in Wichita was a survivor of the German forced labor camps. The problem the Germans had with him? He was a young single male.

Judy