Ben Barenholtz

* 1935  †︎ 2019

  • “We were quite poor. I remember having this Polish girlfriend and she was quite nice, very innocent. And she said: 'Well, we know the Jews have all the money.' I said: 'Where did you get that?' She said: 'In school.' I said: 'I wish somebody had told me. Nobody told me that. I wouldn't... I didn't have to work.'”

  • “Some of these people who think that because they survived there's something special about them, because survivors, like... Particularly if you were religious in some way that made you survive. And then there's the opposite side which is the guilt of being a survivor. So the trick is... What you only try to do is to balance the two. I don't think I am anything special because I am survivor. Since I don't believe any of the nonsense. But whatever... However they handle it and whatever they do I can't... I can't be judgmental in any way because they have to find their own way. And some of them can't and some of them... You know I got to know Kosiński, he killed himself. There's a lot of... Lot of them get to a point where it's just too much. They become suicidal or they become megalomaniacs who think that they are so special because they were survivors, that everything belongs to... You know, something special. That's... I try to stay away from... To me, it's nonsense."

  • "It was quite prepared but this time they came early in the morning and they started shooting. And there was one of the families... Because the other ones had already moved to the other part of the forest. And there was and... So they killed... the father, the mother... They killed my father almost right away. And then they killed this man, his wife and his daughter. And the last thing I heard from my father was him just saying: “Run!” And I saw my little friend, who was seven and I was eight at that time, and I grabbed his hand and... Because I knew where to go so I was holding onto him. And I remember jumping over the body of his sister. But somewhere along the line I let go his hand and they caught him and they shot him too.”

  • Celé nahrávky
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    Praha, 25.06.2018

    (audio)
    délka: 01:54:03
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They have gone to the Moon with the help of Nazis but cannot manage to feed a hungry child

Ben Barenholtz was born on October 5th 1935 in Kovel in what was then Poland to a Jewish family. He spent his childhood in Kupychiv ( Купичів) in Volhynia where his father had been working for a Polish landowner as an administrator, overseeing the works in the forest. After Volhynia had been occupied by German troops and most of his relatives were murdered during the following ethnic cleansing, he managed to take shelter in a forest with his father, mother and brother. There, with the help of a friendly Polish family, he survived the following twenty two months in an underground dugout. His father had been murdered by Ukrainian nationalists, but Ben, as well as his mother and his brother, lived to see the coming of partisans and the Red Army. Then, due to the initiative of the Jewish Agency for Israel, they were transfered to Vienna via Prague, where they managed to get to the American Zone. After spending some time in the DP camp in Bad Gastein they got their United States visa, as Barenholtz‘s aunt who had in time managed to escape troubled eastern Europe had been living there. Ben went to a yeshiva in Brooklyn for a short time, but he was mocked due to his Eastern European accent. So he rather transferred to a public school attended mainly by Italian immigrants which he attended for several years. In the early 1950s, he joined the U.S Army and served in Europe for two years, at bases near Munich and Nuremberg. After returning to New York he was granted U.S. citizenship and settled in Greenwich Village where he joined the community of local nonconformists, musicians, writers and painters. In 1966, he started to work with Roger Euster, a notable figure of New York‘s theatre and film scene, with whom he had run The Village Theater – later known as the legendary Fillmore East – for two years. After that, he took over The Elgin Theater, a movie theatre in Chelsea, where he had established one of the New York‘s nightlife and underground culture centres. In his later years, he also got involved in film distribution, production and directing, working with people like David Lynch, Joel and Ethan Coen, George A. Romero or Darren Aronofsky. He played the part of a zombie in George A. Romero‘s Dawn of the Dead. Ben Barenholtz passed away on June 27th 2019 in Prague.