Benno Levi

"Have faith and learn from history."

Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Alsfeld, Germany
Name of father, occupation
Hermann, Merchant
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Regina Lind, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, Ruth, me, Ernest and Miriam
How many in entire extended family?
Who survived the Holocaust?
18, my immediate family and mostly cousins who left Germany early
My sister Ruth, my brother Ernst, and I, were brought to the United States on the 22nd children’s transport in December of 1934.  We were sponsored by the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society of New York.  They contacted communities all over the United States for help to bring out children from Germany.  They wanted it to be kept quiet as they feared negative reactions from the public, that people would be upset that Americans jobs could be lost to immigrants.  Fred Butzel and the Jewish Federation of Detroit helped bring children to Detroit.  About 20-30 children came here.  Robert Rosenberg and his family, my brother Ernst, my sister Ruth, and I were adopted by Julius Friedman and his family.  At least 1000 children were sent out of Germany to the safety of the United States because of this effort.  
My parents and my little sister, Miriam, came out of Germany in the summer of 1938.  My parents had cousins in Baltimore who helped them get out.  Our family later reunited in Detroit.
My roots go very deep in Bavaria.  Since 1760, all of our family lived in the same 25 kilometer area.  The family lived and married there, every village in the area had cousins.  We were all strongly affiliated with family, they were all observant Jews.  
I was a boy when Hitler came to power, they were exciting times, and there were lots of flags and parades.  On May 1, I wanted to march in a Nazi parade; my father said no, we can’t endorse the Nazis.  Anti-Semitism was mild until Hitler came to power and then got worse.  At school, they started singing anti-Semitic songs and made speeches against the Jews.  My classmates would look at me; some made remarks at my Jewish friend and me.
My father had a three story apartment building; on the second floor were non-Jewish tenants who put up a picture of Hitler outside their apartment.  My father told me not to make faces at the picture.  He later told me that we would be leaving Germany soon.   
I later served in the United States Army during World War II for almost three years serving in the Pacific, in Guam Philippines, and Okinawa.  I was awarded two decorations:
1) Silver Star for gallantry in action:
On Guam, I single handedly, stopped an erroneous bombing and strafing attack by six US Marine planes who mistook American troops as enemy soldiers during heavy fighting, as enemy soldiers.   
2) Bronze Star for heroism above and beyond call of duty:
With another soldier, under heavy enemy fire, I rescued a wounded buddy who was left on the battlefield in a failed attack on a heavily fortified position on Okinawa.
Occupation after the war
Chief Financial Officer for Lee Mortgage Co.; Chief Financial Officer, Sinai Hospital; Treasurer and Senior Vice President at St. Joseph Hospital, Mt Clemens, MI
Ruth, Realtor for Century 21 Today
Regina, systems analyst, Barnard College Tova, dentist and matchmaker Ernest, podiatrist Noah, dentist Uriel, podiatrist Gabe, pathologist.
Nineteen and ten great-grandchildren
What do you think helped you to survive?
My sister Ruth, my brother Ernst, and I were brought to the United States on the 22nd children’s transport in December of 1934. We were sponsored by the German Jewish Children’s Aid Society of New York. We were then settled as probably the first refugees of the Hitler era in Detroit.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Have faith and learn from history.
Charles Silow
Interview date:


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