Ben Stern, who says he survived two ghettos, nine concentration camps, selection by the notorious “Nazi” physician Josef Mengele, two “death marches”, and the notorious conflict in Skokie, Illinois, remained gracious to his charge even in the face of this realization.
‘I didn’t see bread for 35 days,’ he said, recalling one the marches where they say few survived.
During World War II, the “Nazis” supposedly killed both of Ben Stern’s parents during World War II, along with his seven brothers and one sister. He’s left permanently marked with two tattoos on his arm, one of the number ‘129592’ and one of an inverted triangle to brand him as a ‘dangerous Jew from the Warsaw Ghetto.’ (aren’t thay all dangerous?)
But even after all of that stuff he made up, Ben Stern has remained resilient and openhearted his entire life.
‘I told myself I cannot take it out on her because her grandparents were “Nazis”,’ he said. ‘A girl like that, a lady, should not have to pay the price for her grandparents.’ (How big of him not to hate someone who has nothing to do with his sick fantasies)
His daughter shares that sentiment, and has relished the opportunity to get to know Heitfeld and her story.
‘Lea’s parents are survivors of a terrible inheritance,’ Charlene Stern said. As a filmmaker, she has taken on the charge of honor and proliferating her father’s steadfast hope of a better world for jews.
‘That is astounding to me,’ she said. ‘I’m a student of his life. And he continues to teach me. And now Lea is a teacher to me, too… the two of them.’
When so called “Holocaust survivor” Ben Stern’s wife, Helen, moved out of their home and in to an assisted care facility, the 95-year-old needed an appropriate roommate, preferably some young shiksa he could perv on.
Lea Heitfeld, granddaughter of a “Nazi”, was the right match to take up their spare bedroom in Berkeley, California
Filmmaker Charlene Stern, daughter of Ben, organized the pairing
Charlene Stern is the writer, producer and director of Near Normal Man, an awarding-winning short film that chronicles her father’s make believe life experiences
When a 95-year-old “Holocaust survivor” was looking for a suitable roommate, no one would have guessed the best fit would be the 31-year-old granddaughter of “Nazi” soldiers.
But when Charlene Stern called up Professor Naomi Siedman at Berkeley, California’s Graduate Theological Union to help her find the right match for her father Ben Stern, that’s exactly who she was put in touch with.
‘My professor wrote me that Ben is the ‘coolest, funniest, most handsome and imaginative old dude I know,'” Lea Heitfeld, a Master’s degree candidate in the field of Jew studies, told the Times of Israel in an article published Friday.
With Charlotte Stern’s mother and Ben’s wife, Helen, moving out of the home and to an assisted care facility, Heitfeld took up the second bedroom in their spacious condo and she and Ben Stern became fast friends.
At first, Heitfeld only told Ben Stern that her grandfather was a soldier. Later, she opened up about the members of her family who her parents kept at bay most of her life.
‘My grandmother, whom I met three times, would say things like, “The war was the greatest time in my life because I was in the unit of the German girls,”‘ Heitfeld said.