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Benjamin Grünfeld

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00:00:00 Background

00:04:02 Anti-Semitism in Romania/Hungary

00:08:18 Deportation/selection

00:12:59 Daily life and survival in the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp

00:23:45 Death marches/liberation

00:28:40 Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp

00:32:50 Postwar period

“I had frequent dreams during my time in the camp. They were almost always nightmares, and of a very special kind. Of course, our daily life was a nightmare in itself. In my nocturnal dream world, I repeatedly tried to convince myself that the evil all around me was simply a nightmare from which I would soon awake. But each morning I awoke to the same painful realization that the nightmare was nothing less than reality itself.”[1]


Benjamin Grünfeld, the third of four sons of Hungarian Jews, was born on May 6, 1928, in Cluj, Romania. His father, Josef, was a recognized watchmaker and goldsmith, and the sons, too, were artistically and musically gifted. In 1940, Cluj (Hungar. Kolozsvár) fell to Hungary, and for Benjamin, World War II began in March 1944: His oldest brother, Armand, was inducted into the Hungarian army, and the remaining family members were arrested by the Hungarian police. After a few weeks in an interim camp, the entire family was deported to Auschwitz. They were separated at the ramp: the youngest brother, Sandor, and the parents were immediately sent to their deaths, while Herman and Benjamin were taken through Birkenau to the Buna/Monowitz concentration camp. Initially deployed in the cementdetachment, they had to do extremely heavy labor until Herman managed to join the goldsmiths, and Benjamin, through his intercession, was transferred to “Kommando 26” as camp bookkeeper and a designer of greeting cards.


Time and again, Benjamin Grünfeld narrowly avoided the selections: once, only because his Kapochampioned him. Along with the other prisoners, the brothers were forced to take part in the death marchon January 18, 1945. From Gleiwitz, they were taken in open freight cars to the  Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, where they were forced to work in the armaments industry. Finally, their strength at an end, they arrived at Bergen-Belsen, where they were freed by the British Army on April 15, 1945. Then Benjamin worked at first for the British, painting English-language traffic signs. He developed diarrhea and had to be hospitalized. A short time later, he registered for the medical evacuation program offered by the Swedish Red Cross. Both brothers ultimately settled in Stockholm.


In 1948, Benjamin Grünfeld volunteered for the Israeli armed forces and served in the air force during the War of Independence. He was homesick for Sweden, however, and returned there 18 months later. He worked for a Swedish airline, and married Solvej. The couple now have three children and 11 grandchildren. Painting was his way of getting the time in the concentration camp out of his system. Today Benjamin Grünfeld travels all over Sweden to participate in contemporary witness encounters. His memoirs were published in 1995, first in Swedish; an English translation became available in 2007. In 1996, Benjamin Grünfeld went back once again to Cluj and Auschwitz; his journey into his own past is depicted in the film A Round Trip to Hell – with Benny Grünfeld to Auschwitz, by Olle Häger.

(SP; transl. KL)


Benjamin Grünfeld, oral history interview [Swed.], June 6, 1996. USC Shoah Foundation Institute, Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Archive, Code 16248.

Benjamin Grünfeld, oral history interview [Swed.], January 12, 2008. Archive of the Fritz Bauer Institute, Norbert Wollheim Memorial.



Grünfeld, Benny: Tonåring i Hitlers dödsläger. I samarbete med Magnus Henrekson / Olle Häger. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1995.

Grünfeld, Benny: A teenager in Hitler’s death camps. In cooperation with Magnus Henrekson and Olle Häger. Dallas: Benbella Books, 2007.



A round trip to hell – with Benny Grünfeld to Auschwitz (Sweden, 1996, directed by Olle Häger)

[1] Benny Grünfeld: A teenager in Hitler’s death camps. In cooperation with Magnus Henrekson and Olle Häger (Dallas: Benbella Books, 2007), S. 31.