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The International School for Holocaust Studies

A Teenager in Hitler's Death Camps

Featured Book

Reviewed by Kathryn Berman

A Teenager in Hitler's Death Camps

Benny Grunfeld; translated by Ken Schubert
Benbella Books Edition, 2007
115 pages

Benny and his brother Herbert survived the horrors of Auschwitz death camp, a gruelling death march, the labor camp Dora-Mittelbau (Nordhausen), and finally the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, from where they were liberated.

Translated from the original Swedish, this autobiography tells the story of Benny, a Hungarian teenager swept into the horrors of the Nazi death camps in 1944.

A 16-year-old growing up in a happy Jewish family in Kolozsvar, Transylvania, (now Cluj, Romania), he and his family are torn from their home and deported to Auschwitz. Upon arrival, he and his brother are separated from their father, little brother, mother, grandmother, and aunt. They never see them again.

The author then reveals the details of Auschwitz as well as the other camps in which he was incarcerated, including the misery and cruelties that encompassed daily life, and how he and his brother undoubtedly helped each other to survive, which he sees as nothing short of a miracle.

Together they went to Sweden in July, 1945. In 1948, Benny volunteered to fight alongside Israel's armed forces in Israel's War of Independence. He was one of the 3,500 members of Machal ("Mitnadvei Chutz L’Aretz," or "Volunteers from Abroad").

The book is illustrated throughout with paintings by Benny Grunfeld, some of which can be seen today at the Ghetto Fighter's Kibbutz in Israel and also at the Auschwitz Museum. One of the paintings was done by his brother Herbert. There is a glossary of terms relating to the Holocaust, together with a historical background by Olle Hager at the end of the book.

Written from the perspective of a teenager, this book is suitable for use in high schools. Some of the illustrations are quite graphic and may not be suitable for younger children.

Today Benny Grunfeld lives in Sweden with his wife and family, where he spends much time speaking to groups of schoolchildren about his Holocaust experiences.