Holocaust survivor welcomes roommate who’s a granddaughter of Nazis

Charlene Stern / Washington Post

Ben Stern has lived through a lot. Has family were forced from their home in Poland by the Nazis when he was a teenager.

He survived in the Warsaw Ghetto, Auschwitz, along with eight other concentration camps, and two death marches, and was permanently separated from his family.

Stern moved to the US, to Skokie, a suburb in Chicago, Illinois with his wife.

He had no education, and couldn’t speak English, according to the Washington Post.

Fifteen years later in the 1970s, Stern fought tirelessly to oppose a planed march by neo-Nazi against the survivors who lived in Skokie.

And when his wife recently went into a care home because of dementia, Stern, now 95, did the unthinkable: he got a 31-year-old roommate whose grandparents were active members of the Nazi Party.

Lea Heitfeld, a student from Germany, has moved into Stern’s home while she finishes her degree.

He said:

It was the right thing to do.

I’m doing the opposite of what they did.

The pair eat meals and watch TV together in the evenings, and talk about history at length.

Heitfeld said:

This act of his opening his home, I don’t know how to describe it, how forgiving or how big your heart must be to do that, and what that teaches me to be in the presence of someone who has been through that and is able to have me there and to love me.

That he was able to open the door for someone who would remind him of all his pain.

His daughter Charlene has made a film about her father.

Here is a trailer for the film:

Incredibly, Charlene showed the film to Heifeld’s father while he was visiting his daughter, and offered to work with her and help get the film shown in Germany.

Stern said he feel it’s important to share his story so ensure young people “stand up to hate once there are no more survivors left to tell their stories”.

HT Washington Post

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