Holocaust survivor shares his story with Wentzville students
On Thursday, Nov. 29, Holocaust survivor Ben Fainer shared his moving story with eighth-grade students from Wentzville Middle School.
In the communication arts class the students are reading “Night” by Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, which is based upon his story of survival while in the concentration camps. WMS teachers Marcus Hirsch and Scott Kiehl arranged for Fainer to visit with the students and share his own story.
“My message is my experience,” said Fainer with a shrug. “I had the greatest mother in the world, and she was taken away from me when I was 9½ years old by the Nazis, and she perished in Auschwitz. So I remind these children that they should listen to their mother.”
Born Bendet Fajner in Poland in 1930, Fainer was separated from his mother and his siblings and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp by the Nazis in 1939. He still bears the tattoo ID number 178873 on his left forearm.
“To survive the camps you had to be able to walk and to work in the factory,” he said. “If you couldn’t do either, you would soon be dead.”
After more than six years spent in several different camps, he was finally liberated by the U.S. Army’s 26th Infantry Division in April of 1945. After the war, he lived in Ireland and Canada before settling in St. Louis.
“The children in America, what they have is greater than any other children anywhere in the world,” he said. “They have the world on a string.”
As students lined up to hug Fainer and have their picture taken with him after the assembly, student Hunter Mize said he had been moved by his presentation.
“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to listen to someone who survived, and is brave enough to tell us about his experiences,” Hunter said. “I think everyone should know what happened in WWII, how these people suffered, because what Hitler did was so evil and filled with such hatred. People need to know what the Jewish people went through in the Holocaust, so nothing like this could ever happen again.”