Mr. Benjamin “Ben” Rosenfeld, of 4 Deer Run, Westerly, RI, passed away on Thursday, January 21, 2021, at home, with his best friend holding his hand. He was 91 years old. Ben was born on August 31, 1929, in Sosnowiec, Poland, the second son of Abram and Rozia Rosenfeld.
At the beginning of the second world war, Ben fled the frontlines with his brother and mother, only to end a few months later in the Lodz Ghetto. The family lived in deplorable conditions until mid-1944 when he, with his brother and mother, boarded the trains to the Auschwitz concentration and extermination camps.
Ben and his brother survived a series of concentration and forced labor camps together and were liberated by U.S. Forces from Camp Wels, Austria, in May 1945. Ben’s mother did not survive Auschwitz. After a brief time in Italy, Ben settled in Manchester, England where he met Martha. Ben built a pocketbook design and manufacturing business and, with Martha, raised three children.
Ben later divorced and, on a fortuitous vacation in Switzerland, met his future wife, Marcelle. Ben and Marcelle immigrated to the United States in the mid-80s, coming to Westerly in 2000. After Marcelles Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Ben devotedly cared for Marcelle at home until it was no longer possible. She then moved to the memory care unit of the Royal Nursing Home, where he visited her multiple times a day until the pandemic hit.
Over the years, Ben rarely spoke, if at all, of his time in the ghetto or the camps. That was, until 1998 when the Shoa (Holocaust) Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg, invited him to give oral testimony to his life as a survivor. In the spring of 2019, after meeting Westerly High School’s history teacher Mr. Servidio, he shared his experiences with high school students. He had planned to continue speaking with the students, “lest we forget.”
Ben was independent, opinionated, and worldly. He could talk history, philosophy, opera, religion, and automobiles. He enjoyed traveling, skiing and had a passion for tennis (he enjoyed winning). Last but not least, a cup of coffee and a sweet treat with friends, he valued friendship.
Ben is survived by his wife, Marcelle, his children Rosalin, Julie, Daniel, stepchildren Rene and Jill, his grandchildren Robbie, Nick, and Ritchie and his first wife Martha, and his beloved cat Ginger. A special thanks go to his dedicated team of caregivers, Toni, Jackie, Kim1, Kim 2, and Karen.
To plant a tree in memory of Benjamin Rosenfeld, please click here.