I am Ben Lesser, author and survivor of concentration camps in the Holocaust. AMA.
Hello reddit. I am Ben Lesser.
I am the founder of the Zachor Holocaust Remembrance Foundation.
I was born in Krakow, Poland, in 1928. With the exception of my older sister Lola and myself, the rest of my family was killed by the Nazis.
Over the 5 years of the war, I was fortunate to survive several ghettos, as well as the notorious camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and finally be liberated in Dachau.
After the war, in 1947 I immigrated to the United States where a few years later, in 1950, I met and married my wife Jean. Over the years, I became a successful realtor in Los Angeles and after retiring in 1995, I have devoted my time to being a volunteer to speak in colleges and schools about the Holocaust.
I wrote a book about my experiences, entitled Living a Life that Matters.
I am looking forward to answering your questions today. Victoria from reddit will be helping me via phone. Anything I can do to further the cause of tolerance - I am always ready, willing and able to do. Anyway, you go ahead and ask any questions.
Edit: Well, there are several things I would like to say.
One of them is: read my book. It's very important. Not just because I want to sell a book. It's important that I made sure, on eBook, you can buy it for $3, so no child can say they cannot afford this book.
And besides my book, I lately started an audiobook, which any person who doesn't have the time or can't read it for whatever reason, they can listen to me, they can listen to my voice, and my story. And it's very inspiring. Because I show them how things can... be done! And I tell them in my audiobook, what you can do, to succeed in life. What it means, living a life that matters.
But besides the fact that I wrote a book, besides the fact that I am speaking, I started the Zachor Holocaust Remembrance Foundation for one thing and one thing only - to keep this world from acquiring amnesia, forgetting.
Zachor means remember. And I want to get across this to all the listeners and readers. I want you to remember.
Because when I am gone, who will be left to continue to teach about the Holocaust? Who will be left, to counteract the Holocaust deniers?
So it is so important that the Zachor Foundation will live on forever.
But more importantly, I wanted to find a way that can make YOU, the listeners, the readers, the visitors, I want to enable YOU to do something to keep this world - to make it a better world.
What can YOU do to change things?
And that's when I started a new website, called http://www.i-shout-out.org
This is something we can do. Let our voices be heard. You and I shouting out, our voices may not be heard, but if MILLIONS shout out, we can be heard.
This is a worthy cause, this is a worthy idea. If millions shout out against bullying, against hatred, against Anti-Semitism - Victoria, those shout-outs will be on our website forever.
It's a wall. With shout-outs.
Can you imagine your great-great-grandchildren punching in your name, and your shout-out will come up? Your name, your date, your age, and what your shout-out was? How important is that?
That's something everyone can do. We are hoping to get 6 million shout-outs to compensate for the 6 million silenced voices. I feel obligated, as a survivor, to do that. To speak for my family who were killed, slaughtered. But there is something you can do too, to help. Shout-out in this world.
Let everyone know what you believe in.
And it doesn't have to stop at 6 million. We could go global, eventually. Imagine what the impression that this would have on the world, if millions of us shout-out. And by the way, the kids in school love the idea. Because they take this shoutout, and they see it themselves on the website, standing for what they believe in, against bullying or racism, and then they go home, and tell their parents, and now the parents feel ashamed and of course they do it too...
So it's important to keep this world from acquiring amnesia, and to -- you know, Victoria, I feel so strong about this, that there is so much hatred in this world, and nobody is turning the other course.
Who is going to reverse the hatred? Who is going to stop it from happening?
So we started this foundation, http://www.i-shout-out.org, for a purpose. To reverse the trend of hatred into tolerance.
Instead of hating.
This is something I want to urge every listener, every reader. Please. Do that.
We are willing to take care of it, whatever needs to be done, but I want to see the shout-outs.
And remember one thing: these kids, who shout-out, we never know who they will grow up to be. Some of these kids may be people of importance, even a President.
So remember - this will always be there to remind them - you made a pledge, a shout-out, for tolerance, against racism, whatever you chose.
This is so important. I urge all of you to do it. Victoria, you can help, by doing exactly what you're doing, recording it.