An 88-year-old Holocaust survivor who went through six concentration camps is set to celebrate his bar mitzvah Nov. 19 at Chabad of Poway in what many call a historic moment.
Ben Midler was 13 and ready for his bar mitzvah, a Jewish coming of age ceremony, when he was taken from his family by Germans who invaded his home in the Polish city of Bialystok in 1941. He recalled that the Bialystok synagogue was burned down by Germans in June that year with 2,000 Jews inside.
After living in a ghetto for two years, Midler was taken to six concentration camps between the ages of 15 to 17. He still has the numbers printed on his arm.
Midler said he survived because he worked in the ghetto and did not associate with other kids, who it turned out, were sent to Auschwitz.
In August 1943, Midler and 50,000 others were taken in six cattle cars — three went to Treblinka and three to Majdanek. When he got to the camps, he told the officer he was a presser, which he said saved his life because at that time the Germans were fighting the Russians and needed warm clothing to be made. They gathered about 200 men and women whom were tailors and the rest they killed on the spot.
“Anytime they said they needed people to work, I said I am ready to go — this saved my life,” said Midler, who lives in Rancho Bernardo and is author of “The Life of A Child Survivor from Bialystok, Poland.”
“For someone who has lived through the Holocaust, and yet thanks G-d every day for the miracles G-d has done for him then and now, this is truly a celebration, not just for Ben Midler but the entire Jewish Nation,” said Rabbi Mendel Goldstein, director of Chabad of Poway.
The event is at 10 a.m. at 16934 Chabad Way. Visit chabadpoway.com or call (858) 451-0455.