She Was My Lolu, And I Was Her Benku

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One year ago, I lost my beloved sister, Lola. At 91 years of age, she lived a bountiful and blessed life. Like me, she was a survivor. We were the only ones of our immediate family of 7 to make it out of the hell on earth.

My beloved sister, Lola, may she rest in peace, never failed to warm our hearts, and inspire our souls. The light of her love often kept us from darkness. At her Yahrzeit memorial (a candle lighting ceremony of one year to the date of their passing) I shared some words of how I remember and cherish my dear sister.

As we light a Yahrzeit candle for Lola, and while we reflect on the pain and sadness of our first year without her—I hope that we will also be able to celebrate the joy and blessings that she gave us. In so doing, we will keep the light of her spirit and legacy burning.

As all of you know, Lola was my big sister—she was my protector, my role model, and my hero. She was religious, talented, multi-lingual, beautiful, bright, wise, spirited, courageous, and determined. She was my Lolu, and I was her Benku. We were lucky to know, and to love each other longer than anyone else in our lives. My life was, and will continue to be, blessed in countless ways because of her.

There was a time, just after I was liberated from Dachau, age 16, weighing only 65 lbs, and on a brink of death where I thought I was an orphan. Craving an identity, while at St. Ottilien Monastery (which had become a hospital and displaced persons’ camp for Jewish refugees) recovering from the horrific life I was forced to live through because of one man’s hate, I joined a group of orphaned teenage refuges, Chalutzim. It was their idea that the only way we could survive the post-Holocaust world was for us to create our own country.

As an orphaned Jewish Holocaust survivor, this made a lot of sense to me, so as soon as I could leave the hospital, I joined them. With that in mind, I began rigorous training and a few months later, it was such an honor to be part of the first group of 10 that was ready to go on the Aliyah Bet to Palestine.

As fate would have it, I never went. One day before we were set to go, one of the girls in our group, Rachel, became sick and was rushed to the hospital at the monastery. We were friends, and I went to visit her to reassure her that her sickness would not remove her from our group.

I only spent two hours with her, but those two hours changed my life … and I didn’t even know it. In the bed next to me was a young woman with a leg in a sling and nine months pregnant. Story has it that after I left she asked Rachel who the young man with wavy hair was. She told her my name, saw a photo of me and instantly knew.

“That is my brother!” She had exclaimed. “Baynish! He is alive.” Immediately, a plan was set into action to reunite us before I depart. Lola put word out that she was dying and to please let me know.

Our cousin, who also survived, was able to find me and relay the message. Of course, when it came to choosing Palestine or my dying sister, there was no choice.

We were going to be reunited.

The reunion between us is one that I will never forget. I arrived frantically to her bedside where we hugged tearfully, treasuring the moments we had together because they were to be fleeting.

It was only then I knew she was pregnant. And, she was not, in fact dying. She had simply slipped on ice and twisted her ankle. She had created the story to bring us back together.

Her loving lie turned out to be a complete life-changer for me—one for which I, and my family will always be very grateful. In that short moment, I went from being an orphan, to being reunited with my loving family. And this small immediate family was soon enlarged by the birth of Lola and Michel’s first child, Heshi.

I was blessed to have her in my life for the next 69 years. Which because of her, I was further blessed with my beloved wife, Jean, my precious daughters, Sherry and Gail, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

Lola lived a life that mattered. A devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, her life revolved around her family, art and religion. She was a world renowned artist, famous for her still life and portraits that currently reside in private collections and part of the Yad Vashem archive in Jerusalem. Although not wealthy by financial standards, she was wealthy beyond measure in her priceless children, Heshi, Jossi, Matti, and their children and grandchildren.

Her beautiful memoir, “A WORLD AFTER THIS: a Memoir of Loss and Redemption,” was published in 2010. It tells the unforgettable story of a couple whose courage, love, determination, and faith were greater than all of Hitler’s evil power.

To the very end, my sister Lola still possessed her great beauty, elegance, intelligence, and grace. She is a hero not only to me, to our family, and to the many people whose lives she saved from the Nazis—but to the current generations that were born because of her actions, and generations to come.

Each and every one is and will be touched by Lola’s light.

Each and every one is a testimony to the strength of the Jewish people.

Each and every one represents Lola’s revenge on Hitler.

When my sister, hero, and guardian angel Lola left us, part of me left with her. I miss her more than I can say.

I long to tell her one more time, how much I love her. And how I will live the rest of my days with her light in my heart.

4 thoughts on “She Was My Lolu, And I Was Her Benku

  1. What a moving and beautiful tribute! May Lola rest in peace and may Lola continue to live on in the memory of the living and brighten their lives!

    Thank you, Benku, for sharing her light with us and for giving life to her story by sharing the name of her book with us.

    Wherever she is – and she is now everwhere – she will continue to protect her little brother and his family.


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