David P. Boder Interviews Benjamin Piskorz; September 1, 1946; Tradate, Italy



Boder experimented in some of the interviews by focusing on special episodes rather than trying to tell the subject's whole story. Benjamin Piskorz's membership in the Jewish Fighting Organization that revolted against the Germans in the Warsaw ghetto made it natural to begin there, although it was done at the expense of background information. We know only that he was a native of Warsaw, had studied German in high school, and that his father had been deported in 1941 and never heard from again. Piskorz's account of the ghetto uprising is brief but introduces several interesting elements, including the Germans' use of Jewish turncoats to ferret out Jews in hiding in the ghetto ruins during the last day of the revolt. It also mentions the inspirational figure of a woman who died in the first battle of the uprising, who, whatever the facts about her may have been, evidently served the cause of ghetto martyrology. Captured and tortured by the Germans, Piskorz carried the marks of his own martyrdom plainly on his face.

Benjamin Piskorz was one of the few Jews sent to Treblinka to be selected there for work elsewhere. He was sent to Majdanek and then to the Buna works at Monowitz (Auschwitz III). There he was taken under the wing of the camp's orchestra conductor and given the privileged job of cleaning the musicians' block. Piskorz recalls spending two years there, but it could not have been more than eighteen months. He was evacuated on foot and by train to Dora-Mittelbau, a subcamp of Buchenwald, from which he escaped during a bombing raid. During the last chaotic months of Hitler's Reich Piskorz succeeded in disguising himself as a wounded SS man with a medical discharge and ended up as overseer on a farm in the Sudetenland. Luckily, the Soviet officer who came to shoot him as a captured war criminal was Jewish and allowed himself to be convinced of Piskorz's true identity.

Benjamin Piskorz faces up to one of the neglected aspects of the survivors' experiences, namely the rage and drive for revenge felt by some of them. He admits to committing atrocities against German civilians after his liberation, and his description of returning to Auschwitz to torment his old tormentors provides rare evidence that the Russians put captured SS men to work at the scene of their crimes. After a close call with the law in British-occupied Austria, Piskorz married, moved to Italy to prepare for emigration to Palestine, and at the time of his interview at Tradate DP camp had just become a father.

From FRESH WOUNDS: EARLY NARRATIVES OF HOLOCAUST SURVIVAL by Donald L. Niewyk. Copyright (c) 1998 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. www.uncpress.unc.edu