The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir

The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir

The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir

The Dentist of Auschwitz: A Memoir


" In 1941 Berek Jakubowicz (now Benjamin Jacobs) was deported from his Polish village and remained a prisoner of the Reich until the final days of the war. His possession of a few dental tools and rudimentary skills saved his life. Jacobs helped assemble V1 and V2 rockets in Buchenwald and Dora-Mittelbau; spent a year and a half in Auschwitz, where he was forced to remove gold teeth from corpses; and survived the RAF attack on three ocean liners turned prison camps in the Bay of Lubeck. This is his story.


In July 1985 I joined twelve Jewish men and women from the United States on a fact-finding mission behind the Iron Curtain. In the capitals of Poland. Romania, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia we visited a small number of Jews too old to leave for a beginning elsewhere. Most lived in Altersheims, homes for the aged supported by Jewish philanthropy. The Jewish life they had once known no longer existed, and anti-Semitism was still widespread. For the Jews. Hitler had won World War 11.

When I returned to Boston, I sat back and took stock. I had to confront my obligation. and I began to speak out publicly about how and why nearly an entire people was erased from the face of the earth. In this process the small fragments of memory, fixed in my mind like holographic images, expanded and brought back my experiences in vivid detail.

But life does not always follow a straight road, as I had learned in my youth. One day, during a routine visit to the doctor’s office, expecting a clean bill of health, I heard the opposite: “You have throat cancer,” I was told. My good friend Dr. Goroll. as devastated as I, insisted that I be operated on the next day.

I imagined the worst. My speaking had become very important, for I had seen its effect on the young, how I had helped them understand the importance of resenting prejudices. Will I still have a voice? I wondered. The thought of becoming mute was overwhelming. I asked the doctors for a prognosis. but doctors are careful; they don’t speculate.

Fortunately the tumor was small and, thanks to immediate surgery and weeks of radiation, my voice changed little. But I knew the doctors could not forecast the future. A voice inside kept telling me, “Write-you may not be able to speak for long.”

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