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Jewish Heritage: The Oral Histories - Cuba Family Archives



                              RUTH EINSTEIN

DATE:                     JULY 22, 2002


Transcript (PDF)


Benjamin Hirsch was born in 1932 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He was the fifth of seven children born to a dentist, Hermann Hirsch, and his wife, Mathilde Auerbach Hirsch. In 1938, as the Nazi regime terrorized German Jews, Ben’s father was arrested and sent to Buchenwald. Their mother sent Ben and his four older siblings to France on a Kindertransport. The two youngest children were too young to go.

Ben was separated from his siblings in France and shifted through various children’s’ homes—Villa Helvetia, Château de Masgelier, Château des Morrelles and others—for the next several years. In 1941, after the Germans grip on France grew tighter, Ben and his two older sisters were smuggled out of France to Lisbon, Portugal on transports organized by the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE). From Lisbon, the children sailed for the United States. The three siblings met up with their brothers in Atlanta, Georgia. The children were all separately placed in local Jewish foster homes. Ben lived with several Jewish families until he graduated from high school. Ben’s parents and younger brother and sister perished in the Holocaust. Hermann died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp in November 1942. His mother and two siblings were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau sometime in the fall of 1943.

Ben served in the United States armed forces during the Korean War and then studied architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Ben became an architect in Atlanta, designing several award-winning structures. For a short time he was in practice with Warren Epstein in the firm of Epstein and Hirsch. In 1978, Hirsch founded Benjamin Hirsch and Associates, Inc. Ben is the designer of the Holocaust Gallery at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum as well as the Memorial to the Six Million in Atlanta’s Greenwood Cemetery.

Ben has published two autobiographical books, Hearing a Different Drummer: A Holocaust Survivor’s Search for Identity (2000) and Home is Where You Find It (2006). He and his wife Jacquie had four children and are the proud grandparents of 20.

Scope of Interview:

Benjamin introduces his family. He describes what he witnessed on Kristallnacht and his father’s arrest. Ben explains how he was sent to France with his four older siblings and the various homes he lived in over the next few years. He recollects his journey from France through Spain to Portugal before sailing to the United States. Ben explains how the siblings ended up in Atlanta, Georgia. He shares many of his experiences adjusting to life in the United States and growing up in Atlanta. He recounts the jobs he held and learning the fate of his parents and younger siblings. Ben explains how he became interested in studying architecture, joined the army, and began to study Judaism. He outlines his early career and his designs of the Memorial to Six Million, the Doris Zaban chapel, and Or VeShalom’s synagogue. Ben describes his social activism and interest in Holocaust education. Ben recalls his marriage, the birth of his children, and how he returned to his Orthodox roots. Finallly, Ben outlines the trajectory of his siblings, their children, and his own children and grandchildren.

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