The Jacket From Dachau
The Jacket From Dachau
In July of 2015, the KHRCA was contacted by a vintage clothing dealer about a recent acquisition of a unique garment at an estate sale. In the back of a walk-in closet, amid a variety of old shirts and vintage dresses, hung a faded striped jacket. A year later, we now know the story of Benzion Peresetski, a young Jewish man from Lithuania who wore this jacket for ten months in Dachau and kept it for 33 years.
42" x 42"
Jillian Eisman, Collector
Survivors of the Holocaust frequently attribute their ability to avoid death to one main variable: luck. For Benzion Peresecki, the 15 year-old son of a delicatessen owner from Radviliškis, Lithuania, surviving the Holocaust was indeed fortunate, but came at an immense cost. Within a span of 10 years, Benzion’s father died from a stomach ulcer, his brother was murdered by the Nazis, he was forced into a ghetto, and was imprisoned, beaten, and subjected to forced labor at the Dachau concentration camp. After liberation, Benzion spent five years in a displaced persons camp with his mother, Chiena, who herself survived a death march at the Stutthof concentration camp. After immigrating to the United States, Benzion fought to re-establish his identity, find justice for his family’s suffering, and create a new home. Throughout his postwar years, no matter where he lived and how many times he moved, he always kept his jacket from Dachau. Benzion never explained to his family or friends why he brought the jacket with him to New York; in fact, he never told his children that it even existed. However, keeping his jacket is consistent with other resilient actions on his part: his immigration to the United States; his search for a new, meaningful identity despite underemployment and several iterations of his name (he formally changed his name to “Ben Peres” soon after his immigration); his courage coping with the emotional and psychological stress from his traumas; his tenacious search for justice through a decades-long reparations campaign with the German government; and, his determination to support his wife, mother, and two children in New York.
Blue/gray striped jacket, labeled 84679
“The Jacket From Dachau,” The Jacket From Dachau, accessed July 28, 2021, https://dachaujacket.omeka.net/items/show/3634.