The Benjamin Tenenbaum (Tene) collection: testimonies of child survivors of the Holocaust
Benjamin Tenenbaum (Tene) was born in 1914 in Warsaw, Poland. He joined the HaShomer HaTzair Zionist movement as a teenager, and began writing poetry for the movement's publications. He immigrated to Mandate Palestine in 1937, and was a founding member of Kibbutz Eilon, where he lived for a decade. After the war, Tenenbaum travelled to Poland, where he spent over a year collecting testimonies from Holocaust survivor children. He included some of those testimonies in a book titled "One of a City and Two of a Family", published (in Hebrew) in 1947. This trip to Poland was also the inspiration for his poem "Temolim al ha-Saf" (1947). He was the editor of a children's magazine and wrote stories for children and adolescents, often inspired by his own childhood in prewar Poland. He was a prolific translator, mostly from Polish and Yiddish, as well as a poet whose poems have been translated into several languages. He died in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 1999.
During World War II, Tenenbaum contacted several exiled Poles, including the poet Władysław Broniewski. After the war, Broniewski used his connections with the Polish Ministry of Culture to have Tenenbaum invited to Poland in order to collect material about Polish poetry and literature. When he visited the HaShomer HaTzair headquarters in Lodz, he learned that the building was also a children's house for Holocaust survivors. He subsequently decided to change the purpose of his stay in Poland, and embarked on a mission to document the personal stories – "We cannot allow such life stories to be forgotten!" He began by translating testimonies of adults collected by the Central Jewish Historical Commission, but soon arrived at the conclusion that they are too apologetic in their attempt to exonerate the witnesses from charges of collaboration. He therefore decided to collect children's stories instead. Tenenbaum started at the children's homes run by HaShomer HaTzair, but then moved to ones run by the Central Council of Jews throughout Poland. He would give the children notebooks and crayons, and many children agreed to write down their wartime experiences. With the help of Marian Klimowski, a former fighter in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, he collected testimonies from the DP camps in Germany as well.
Tenebaum donated his collection to the GFH Archives in the early 1950s.
The GFH Tenenbaum collection includes hundreds of unedited testimonies of Holocaust survivor children, collected in 1946 and 1947 in Poland and Germany. Some eighty of the testimonies were published in his book "One of a City and Two of a Family". However, as Tenenbaum himself admitted, they were edited, and carried some bias in favor of Zionism and the USSR. The GFH collection holds hundreds of unedited testimonies in Russian, Polish and Yiddish. The material has been fully catalogued, indexed and scanned. For further information, see Cohen, Boaz. “The Children’s Voice: Postwar Collection of Testimonies from Child Survivors of the Holocaust.” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 21, no. 1 (January 1, 2007): 73–95
EHRI Guidelines for Description v.1.0