The Story Behind the Holocaust Survivor’s Jacket Found at a Long Island Estate Sale

December 2, 2016 5:00 am
Authentic Holocaust Jacket Found at Estate Sale
(AP Photo/Frank Eltman)
Dachau Concentration Camp
Young prisoners interned at Dachau concentration camp cheering their liberators, the 42nd Division of the U.S. Army (Abrahams/Getty Images)


Last year, a young woman from Oceanside, New York, made an astonishing discovery at a Long Island estate sale: hanging in an older woman’s closet was an authentic jacket worn by a prisoner at the Dachau concentration camp during World War II.

After paying just $2 for it, Jillian Eisman immediately donated the jacket to Queensborough Community College’s Kupferberg Holocaust Center in Bayside, New York. The center took over from there, authenticating it and confirming its late owner, Ben Peres (Benzion Peresecki), whose prisoner number, “84679,” was still sewn on the front.

Originally from Lithuania, Peres was forced into a Jewish ghetto and later sent to Dachau by the Nazis from 1944 until his liberation in 1945. He would later emigrate to the U.S., and throughout his years in postwar America, he kept the jacket with him—clearly, taking care of it.

In 1968, he and his mother put a down payment on a house in Bellmore, Long Island, with about $4,000 received from a German reparations program; and Peres eventually married, had a son and daughter there, and kept the jacket’s existence secret, buried away in his closet. Peres died at age 52, and his wife, her own health failing, decided to sell the house and have the estate sale in July 2015. The rest, they say, is history.

“This authentic jacket provides anyone who comes near it an opportunity to be instantly transformed into the past. Few Holocaust survivor stories can be told so completely,” says Dr. Dan Leshem, director of the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College.

The jacket is currently on display at the Kupferberg Center. For more information on the exhibit, click here. Watch a video about the jacket’s discovery below.

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