New York – Pearl Benisch, a noted author and Holocaust lecturer, died Friday in Brooklyn. Mrs. Benisch was in her late nineties at the time of her death.
Mrs. Benisch’s first book, To Vanquish the Dragon, was a memoir of her wartime experiences, describing brave students of Sarah Schenirer who risked their lives during World War II to help other Jews and did their best to preserve their yiddishkeit even while living through the horrors of the concentration camps.
In 2003 Mrs. Benisch published Carry Me in Your Heart sharing the legacy of her teacher, Sarah Schenirer, with the world. Mrs. Benisch was a frequent lecturer at Bais Yaakov schools, often telling students that it was the lessons she learned at Sarah Schenirer’s kitchen table that sustained her through her darkest hours.
In a 2008 New York Times interview, Mrs. Benisch recalled her last Pesach in Bergen-Belsen just days before the camp was liberated.
”We had nothing to eat but watery soup, with bread once a week,” recalled Mrs. Benisch.. ”But I was one of the lucky ones. I was working in a place where we peeled potatoes and turnips. I cut three turnips in narrow rounds, covered them up with a piece of brown paper and hid them in my shoes.”
When Pesach arrived the women arranged a clandestine Seder, despite their paltry living conditions. When one of the women lamented that they didn’t even have matza to commemorate Pesach, Mrs. Benisch pulled the brown paper package out of her shoes and showed them to the assembled group.
“They are here,” said Mrs. Benisch. “They are under the cover.”
63 years later, Mrs. Benisch reflected on that moment.
“Only G-d can make matza from turnips,” said Mrs. Benisch.