My Great-Uncle


My brain often makes weird associations and jumps from one thing to another.

Yesterday I was just browsing photos online of Harel Skaat to cheer myself up a bit, when I found this photo:

After a few seconds my brain made me think of another photo. It was taken of my grandfather’s youngest brother Béni (Benjámin), in the autumn of 1943. He was 17, looking to graduate from high school the coming spring. He wanted to attend University, study mathematics, get married, settle down in Budapest, spend the summers by lake Balaton… He was looking forward to the end of the war, and things becoming normal again.

The photo was taken on Római-part, right by the Danube. Béni was wearing a white shirt, unbuttoned, the autumn wind blowing his hair. His dark, contemplative eyes were looking at something in the distance. The next photo, he is hugging a young woman, laughing, with a mischievous expression on his face. We don’t know who she was, not even her name. Béni must have known it. They had a bright future ahead of them.

Béni never got to graduate high school. While the 1943/44 school year was cut short by the war, ending on April 1, he was taken for forced labour even before the end of the school year. He escaped, and went into hiding. Shortly before Hungary was liberated from German rule, in February 1945, at age 18 he was shot to death together with the couple, childhood friends from their summer home, who were hiding him.

From his adulthood only two worn, faded photos remain. The last photo taken of him was his senior photo–now lost forever. But those two photos from the boathouse remain in the album of an old lady in Eilat, who still remembers him. My grandma cherishes those two photos of her youngest brother-in-law, whom she loved dearly. They named their second born, my father, after Béni. Béni, according to everyone who knew him, was a genius, with excellent mathematical ability, a talent for the piano, a love for rowing and running, a good dancer and a real ladies’ man. He spent the first several years of secondary school at one of the famous Catholic schools, till the antisemitic laws forced him to leave and enroll at the Jewish high school. He devoured books, and had an incredible passion for life.

For life that was taken from him just as it was about to really begin.

“I will give them, in My House, and within My walls, a monument and a name better than sons and daughters. I will give them an everlasting name which shall not perish.”

Isaiah 56:5 (JPS)

9 Responses to “My Great-Uncle”

  1. Jon Hayenga says:

    That is a sad story, but at the same time it is also amazing memories to have. If that makes sense.
    HUGS, Jon

  2. doesitevenmatter3 says:

    This brought tears.

    Thank you for sharing Beni with us. He lives on as you share stories of him with other people. I know that from now on, I will think of him and honor his memory.

    I am so sorry he died so young and so violently. The world lost a great young man…and all that he would have done. This makes me very sad. And I don’t understand the “whys”. I never will. 🙁


    • Hevel says:

      The opportunity arose to get to know more about him (I shared some things in the password protected post above) and I am feeling more and more of a personal connection with him. Which makes my heart hurt for him even more.

  3. That just makes me want to weep. It is impossible to understand. I can’t. I really can’t.

    • Hevel says:

      I am trying to understand. I can’t. The last two days I have been spending discovering him. I think I’m starting to understand him. Not the world he lived in.

  4. doesitevenmatter3 says:

    I saw the PP. I tried to get on with a password you gave me a long time ago. I tried to get on with MY password…and neither worked.

  5. Ciska says:

    It’s so important that these stories are told. Not in a “once upon a time” way, but in remembrance of so many people who were murdered. We have to remember what happens if people keep silent. We have to remember what happens if we allow prejudice and hate to reign. I would love to learn more about Béni. Would you send me the password for the protected post?

    • Hevel says:

      Indeed. We have to remember, because otherwise we won’t have the reminder to stop something like this happening again. I sent you the password.


  1. They Dreamt, Too « KosherKola - [...] picture is of the three youngest children of my great-grandparents: 16-year-old Béni, 15-year-old Lina and 19-year-old Bandi. The youngest…

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