Benjamin Abeles

* 1925  †︎ 2020

  • “Tolerance. That people be tolerant. That they conserve nature and find happiness in being close to other persons. Life in this world is very beautiful, so that they preserve this world in order to stay this beautiful. That they accept other people, even though they come from different cultures.”

  • “Dad was walking with me on the platform, giving me the last advice, telling me not to lie and not to steal, to brush my teeth and change my socks every day and wash my feet. I didn’t know what to say, so I was just replying: ´Yes.´ But I wasn’t even listening to him, I would have rather been on the train already, in my mind I was already in there, because it was such an adventure for me. I could really see that it was very hard for the parents, that they were very emotional about it and sad that I would go away. But I was so excited to go away, and later I felt very guilty and thus I pretended to feel very sad. Father thus told me: ´Bedřich, if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to.´ I said: ´I am sad, but I want to go.´”

  • “I was born in Vienna, my mom was Austrian and my father was Czech. For the first eight years of my life we lived in Poland, in Bielsko- Biała, which is near Katowice, near the Moravian border. My father was the general manager of the Stock Cognac company, which was a very large company within the Austrian-Hungarian empire. They produced cognac, brandy, and so on. He was the director there. In 1933 we moved to Prague.”

  • “The journey to England was organized by some Jewish committee in London, which also partially paid for it. They paid for the school, too. I stayed with that couple for three days and then I was hired by some agency to work in hotels. I got a job washing dishes.”

  • “There were about thirty of us staying in a kind of a lodge. There was a row of beds, one next to the other. Basically all of us were Jews. I don’t know if they accommodated us there together because we were Jews, but it was so. They were all engineers, ground personnel. We would play cards, listen to the radio, but I would always sit on my bed and study. Then we had the Liberators in the 311th, there were stations, and we would go there on bicycles.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 09.08.2011

    duration: 01:15:57
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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The family was waving me good-bye, tears were rolling down my mom’s cheeks and I have never seen them again since that time

Royal Air Force, 1944
Royal Air Force, 1944
photo: archiv Bedřicha Abelese

Private first class in retirement Bedřich Abeles, Ph.D., was born June 23, 1925 in Vienna in a Czech-Austrian family. The Abeles family lived in the town of Bielsko-Biała in Poland until Bedřich’s eighth birthday, and in 1933 they moved to Prague. Bedřich had grown up in Poland and he had to learn Czech when they arrived to Czechoslovakia. He attended elementary school and grammar school in Prague, from which he was however later expelled for his Jewish origin. The family was already aware of the Nazi threat and in July 1939 they thus sent their son from Prague to England in the so-called Winston transport. A relative took care of him in England and Bedřich was to study the Grammar School in Maidenhead, but he left the school soon after and began working in London. He was earning his living by washing dishes and as a cook and waiter. He rented a room and he has been fully independent since he was fourteen years old. He began to realize he needed more education, and later he thus completed his secondary school leaving exams. On May 11, 1943 he joined the Czechoslovak army in England and later the 311th Bomber Squadron of the Royal air Force, where he served as a ground engineer. His family was murdered in concentration camps during the war. After the liberation he went to Prague and studied physics at the Faculty of Science at Charles University. In 1949 he emigrated to Israel, where he again worked as a waiter, and after receiving his doctoral degree in physics he found employment as a mathematics teacher in the meteorological institute. Later he began working in the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 1956 he moved to the USA where he worked in the company Radio Corporation of America and in Exxon Mobil. He was renowned as a physicist; among other, he invented a thermoelectrical generator for use in space flights. Two years ago he moved to England and now he lives in Leicester.