Rest In Peace Ben Stern. In addition to giving us the greatest radio star of all time he was also a successful sound engineer. And he was always GREAT on the air. 99 years. Hell of a run. Hopefully he’s reading the NY Times in the afterlife (and not calling his son a moron).
Ben was born in Warsaw to Jewish parents. When Ben was 7, his family moved to Mogilnica, about 40 miles from Warsaw. Ben’s father spent a lot of time studying religious texts. His wife runs the family liquor store. Ben went to public school during the day and religious classes at night.
1933-39: After school in Warsaw, Ben returned home and helped out in the family liquor store. One day, a large-scale demonstration took place in the city. People chanted: “Don’t buy from the Jews!” Her Christian neighbor said the priest encouraged this in his sermons. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Ben feared he would be arrested for forced labor. His family agreed with him to leave town. He boarded a train to Soviet-occupied Poland.
1940-44: In July 1942, Ben was deported from the Warsaw ghetto to the Majdanek concentration camp. There, he was assigned to wash potatoes. He was taken to hospital when his legs became severely swollen, although the sick prisoner was the first to be killed. But SS personnel assigned to the kitchen protected Ben for two weeks and he recovered. Later, the same SS caught another prisoner who stole carrots. Enraged, he took a pitchfork and stabbed the prisoner in the throat, killing him. He then ordered Ben to “clean up the mess”.
Ben was one of the few survivors forced from Buchenwald to the Tyrolean mountains near the Austrian border. He was liberated by U.S. troops on May 3, 1945.