Survivor's Story: Martin Bennett

By Robyn Rosen, January 28, 2010

Martin Bennett, 84, attributes his survival in Auschwitz to his older brother who told him to lie about his age and skills.

Born in 1925 in Izbica Kujawska in Poland, Mr Bennett left his parents and eight siblings when the Nazis invaded in 1939, being sent to the Posnan forced labour camp. He was told that he would be able to work and earn money to send back to his family, so he was happy to go. It was only on arrival that the grim reality dawned.

He was 15 when deported to Auschwitz: “They told us we’d be going to a more modern place but when the train went through the gates, we realised what it really was.” But he was reunited with his older brother Tovia, whose life-saving advice was to say he was older and that he was a cabinet maker. “My brother was my angel. Many times I wanted to give up. We were hungry and cold the whole time but we managed to survive together.”

After the war Mr Bennett learned that the rest of his family had not survived — his parents were killed in Chelmno.

He came to England in November 1947, working as a tailor and latterly running a clothes shop. His brother moved to Israel. Married to Priscilla for 57 years, Mr Bennett is today a great-grandfather living in Surrey who gives talks at schools.

“I was only 14 when I was sent to a labour camp and now I speak to 14-year-olds. I worry that this should never happen to future generations.That’s the reason I recall my personal tragedy. I don’t want to speak of myself as a hero. I speak for the six million who cannot.”

For more on Holocaust Memorial Day 2011 see our dedicated HMD page

Last updated: 3:38pm, January 27 2011