Home is Where You Find It: A Memoir

Ben­jamin Hirsch
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012

Ben­jamin Hirsch is one of one thou­sand chil­dren who arrived in the Unit­ed States between 1934 and 1945 with­out par­ents. Although many of the chil­dren were raised by rel­a­tives, this was not the case for Hirsch, who lived in a series of fos­ter homes, includ­ing sev­er­al that active­ly under­mined his birth family’s com­mit­ment to Jew­ish reli­gious prac­tice. Like oth­er sur­vivors,’ reflec­tion and bear­ing wit­ness’ came much lat­er in life than they would today, where child­hood loss and trau­ma are com­mon themes in memoirs. 

One month after Kristall­nacht, Hirsch and his four sib­lings were sent via kinder­trans­port from Frank­fort to Paris, leav­ing behind two younger chil­dren, their moth­er, and their father, who was then in Buchen­wald. Three years lat­er, when Hirsch was nine, the sib­lings arrived in the U.S. after liv­ing in pri­vate homes and orphan­ages in France and Spain. A remark­able series of events, out­lined in the book, made his arrival tru­ly mirac­u­lous. Draw­ing on his own mem­o­ry and the records of the Jew­ish social ser­vice orga­ni­za­tion that over­saw his care, Hirsch tells an amaz­ing and poignant sto­ry of how he and his sib­lings moved into adult­hood pro­pelled first by the hope that their par­ents would sur­vive, and lat­er moved beyond the loss of their par­ents to devel­op careers and estab­lish fam­i­lies. The suc­cess of these five sib­lings is a remark­able tes­ti­mo­ny to their moth­er, whose fore­sight and self­less­ness led her to send her chil­dren away so that they could survive.

Susan M. Cham­bré, Pro­fes­sor Emeri­ta of Soci­ol­o­gy at Baruch Col­lege, stud­ies Jew­ish phil­an­thropy, social and cul­tur­al influ­ences on vol­un­teer­ing, and health advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions. She is the author of Fight­ing for Our Lives: New York’s AIDS Com­mu­ni­ty and the Pol­i­tics of Dis­ease and edit­ed Patients, Con­sumers and Civ­il Soci­ety.

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