Ben Carniol, Holocaust survivor putting pen to paper after 86 years

Contributed Photo / Azrieli Foundation
Hide and Seek: In Pursuit of Justice by Ben Carniol.

Each of us is shaped by the events in our lives; what we hold onto, the events we learn from and almost everything in between. The influence of the people around is sometimes stronger than we think.  

The memoir, Hide and Seek: In Pursuit of Justice, is written by Ben Carniol, a Holocaust survivor, activist and social work educator. The memoir recounts Carniol’s life from when he was a child surviving through the Holocaust, all the way until almost present day. There are many events that have pushed Carniol to become who he is today, a kind and open person happy to share the knowledge and stories that he has gathered over his life.  

After fleeing modern-day Czech Republic with his rescuers, Carniol stayed in a Belgian village living as a Catholic boy until he eventually made it to Canada to live with family, where he relearned some Jewish tradition and heritage.  

Carniol was a part of registering Black voters in Cleveland, as well as attended rallies with Martin Luther King Jr. Carniol has always done a lot with advocating for social justice, he has been a part of many different social movements.  

A favourite anecdote from Carniol’s memoir was when he was advocating for anti-poverty. Carniol snuck into a press conference that the mayor of Montreal was having. They weren’t listening to what needed to be said. Carniol hid in a bathroom stall to stay undetected until the press conference began. Carniol pretended to know some guests and mingled to evade the security. He got his chance to ask his questions as fast and as well as he could before he was discovered and was eventually escorted out of the building.  

Carniol’s memoir is published by the Azrieli Foundation, along with a few other survivors’ stories. The foundation was very open and empathetic to Carniol’s story and his wanting to share it.  

Carniol’s story is not an easy one to share specially to relive the experiences, write them down and have them edited by other people. Nonetheless, Carniol wanted to share his story mainly to honour his parents.  

“I could do more than just wish it never happened,” he said.  

These heavy topics are difficult to talk about and for many people, it is easier to simply not talk about them. 

“Take a stand, know what our values are, express those values and argue against those who want to forget it,” said Carniol.  

Those who are open and have empathy will make the difference. As Carniol said, “If we can have those conversations in the spirit of friendship and mutual respect, I am left feeling hopeful that we can stop all wars, stop all genocide and violence who have been dehumanized.” 

When a person deals with difficult times in their life, some people like to say, “Well, they will get better, just give it time,” which might be true in some respects and not in others. Time gives people a chance to grieve and for broken bones to heal. But time can also hinder some people. Carniol quotes another Holocaust survivor, “’Trauma is not what happened to people, but it is what the people who experienced it do with it inside themselves.’”  

Talking with others and hearing what they have to say keeps us human. The more we can learn and have empathy for one another the more things will change, hopefully for the better.  

Appreciate what you have and don’t resent what you have lost. If someone tells you their story, listen and have a conversation, there may be some wisdom that you learn. 

This article was originally published in print Volume 23, Issue 4 on Thursday, Dec. 7.

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