March 14, 2015 3:46 PM   Subscribe

I am Ben Lesser, the last survivor of the Dachau death march.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (20 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of the things reddit is actually good for -- question and answer in front of thousands or tens of thousands of readers, with the massive upvoting a counterpoint to holocaust denialism. And truly some of the most vivid, concise accounts of the holocaust / camp experience I've read.
posted by Rumple at 4:18 PM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]

I am going on a trip this summer to try my best to honor the dead of my family. Thank you, Metafilter. Doing some research on my mother's family has revealed far more casualties of the Holocaust than I ever realized -- at least 8 exterminated in Auschwitz, 2 in Dachau, 1 in Bergen Belsen, 2 starved to death in the ghetto, 1 slave soldier, and 1 shot into a river where I gather his body was not recovered. I think their home town in Hungary was wiped out, too. What has been the most difficult realization is that such successful efforts were made to wipe out the records of their lives and deaths. For example, almost all of Auschwitz' records were destroyed. Dachau, which has much better records, has real issues with legibility. I have no idea what most of these family members were like, what they looked like, or what they did for a living. I will honor them in a few months, but in a state of deep ignorance of them as people.

I am glad of Mr. Lesser and people like him, and fiercely glad his corner of the world has a light of remembrance still shining, but I feel a lot of grief these days that so much obliteration was successfully accomplished.
posted by bearwife at 5:02 PM on March 14, 2015 [25 favorites]

All of the worst things you could imagine.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:25 PM on March 14, 2015

Bearwife, regardless of what's in your luggage, that's a lot to carry. Travel safe and I hope your trip is everything you want it to be.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:23 PM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]

This messed up my whole day.
posted by bleep at 6:40 PM on March 14, 2015

I went to the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum a few weeks ago and I'm still having dreams about it. It's nothing I didn't know, no pictures I hadn't seen before, but the weight of individual artifacts and objects is overwhelming. The mezuzah on a doorway which was taken from an abandoned, destroyed house in Poland. The boxcar. The cobbles from the Warsaw Ghetto. The broken, smokey stained glass windows from the synagogue burned in Kristallnacht. I don't know how someone can live with their real memories, but I so appreciate them being shared.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:44 PM on March 14, 2015 [5 favorites]

The boxcar.

The boxcar haunts me. The boxcar will always haunt me.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:50 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

The boxcar haunts me. The boxcar will always haunt me.

Yes. It's been 20 years since I went to the Holocaust Museum and the boxcar is still a crystal-clear memory.
posted by asterix at 7:15 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is one of the things reddit is actually good for -- question and answer in front of thousands or tens of thousands of readers, with the massive upvoting a counterpoint to holocaust denialism.

Others might disagree, they would throw out the baby with the bathwater. But let's not get into that now.

reddit's AMAs can be terribly difficult to follow. Only the first 200 comments are visible unless you request more. You can change the sort order so different comments get truncated. There are frequently questions that go unanswered but draw long (and often pointless) discussions. This AMA currently has 1831 comments, only 25 of them by Mr. Lesser. It would take a lot of effort to follow through all the branches of discussion.

It is simpler to read only Mr. Lesser's answers. If you want to read the question, click on the "context" button at the bottom of the comment, you can see the whole branch of that discussion.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:46 PM on March 14, 2015 [8 favorites]

r/tabled is also very good for this. It generates table versions of AMAs that make them much more readable and cuts out the cruft.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:03 PM on March 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

charlie don't surf, that's a pretty underhanded attempt to score points in one argument by dragging it into a another post about the fucking holocaust. But you're absolutely right, let's not get into that now. Better to stay on the topic at hand, eh?

For those looking to get a better handle on the Jewish European experience, the movie Sunshine, a 1999 international co-production does a fair job of providing a multi-generational context to Jewry and how they fit into the history of Eastern Europe, more specifically Hungary. It naturally does touch on the Holocaust, but also on the decades that followed. I personally found it very illuminating.
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:15 PM on March 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

Scoring points, making a point, no big diff...
posted by qinn at 10:35 PM on March 14, 2015

This seems to be the author's page on Amazon.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:42 PM on March 14, 2015

There are people denying the scale and nature of the Holocaust right on that page. It made me sick to read it.
It might be good if people know about that before they decide to click the link. Personally I don't want to be exposed to Holocaust denial and I wasn't aware I would be seeing it.

If this is what Reddit is good for, I don't want to know what it's bad for.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:37 AM on March 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

In my experience, any public discussion of the Holocaust immediately brings anti-Semites out of the woodwork. Immediately. Like, within the first few comments. It's as if they're perpetually sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:11 AM on March 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

It never ceases to amaze me how much of their spare time people are willing to squander on spewing ignorance and hatred, and indeed, on hunting for opportunities to do so.
posted by bardophile at 6:05 AM on March 15, 2015

From the AMA:
I'm sorry, I get carried away.
Least necessary apology ever.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:36 AM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

From the first answer in the link Sangermaine provided. Sorry, it's a long excerpt but it's worth it:

It's a documentary. "Night Will Fall."
In it, they show a deathtrain from when the Americans liberated Dachau - a train with 3,000 emaciated bodies. Only 17 of those walked out alive going into the camp.
3 days before liberation.
When I heard that, and I saw that film... it was like lightning.
I just got struck by lightning.
Because I was one of those 17.
And my cousin, who was with me, was one of the 17. My cousin died in my arms, the night of liberation.
That meant that there were only 16 of us left. I was only 16 years old at the time.
Most of those other survivors were in their 20's, 30's and 40's. So suddenly... I realized then that I may be the only survivor.
Anyway, we are checking this out, and my daughter was able to email to one of the officials in Germany - you know, the Germans kept very good records of everything.
To find out out of these 17 walking out of that death train, how many are still alive today.
The answer came back: one person.
Ben Lesser.

Holy shit.
posted by lunasol at 2:39 PM on March 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

The holocaust has always been awful, but the older I get the more viscerally I am aware of this.

In a similar fashion I wish we could do something to help those in the DRNK. The camps are what, 70 years old? Korea is today. The closeness in history is terrifying.
posted by Braeburn at 12:41 PM on March 16, 2015

When I was in high school in the 80s, we had two weeks of instruction. First on the Holocaust and then on the Japanese-American internment camps. Each week culminated with survivor panel discussion. As you can imagine, a week of the worst images and stories followed by the astonishing presence of eye witnesses was very emotional experience.

At university I took Intro to Film, which covered the entirety of film. One of the thesis of the course was film presents us with a more impactful real than the real. And we watched film on the Holocaust. Prof said if we are in Europe, we must visit Auschwitz in our life time.

Years later I took a vacation to Europe. I found myself near Munich and was determined to visit the concentration camp (located just 10 miles from this city). What I found there I can not forget. I found grassy expanse. Architectural footprints of the former barracks. I found a visitor's center with grainy photo blowups on the walls. There was a chapel. That's about it.
This haunts me.
posted by xtian at 4:43 PM on March 16, 2015

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