Bracelet secretly made in Nazi camp returned to Missouri man’s family decades later

Dawson White
·3 min read

Nearly three years ago, Sharon Berry received an email that didn’t sit well with her.

It included a photo of a small metal bracelet with her father’s name and a six-digit number — his prisoner’s ID.

Berry thought it was a “sick joke,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. Her father Ben Fainer, a Holocaust survivor, had died in 2016 at age 86.

But Berry soon learned that the bracelet had been made by her father during his time at Blechhammer, a secondary camp to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Fainer was only 9 years old when Nazis took him from his family, KSDK reported. He would be taken to six concentration camps over the course of the Holocaust. He once told the outlet being moved from camp to camp was like “marching from one hell to another.”

“You can’t be scared,” Fainer told KSDK in 2010. “You have to think of only one thing: Staying alive.”

As a teen at Blechhammer, Fainer worked as a metalworker. It was during his time in the factory that he secretly crafted himself a bracelet engraved with his name, his mother’s maiden name and prisoner identification number.

Ben Farien is believed to have made the bracelet while working as a metalworker at the Blechhammer camp. Engraved on the bracelet is his name, mother’s maiden name and identification number.
Ben Farien is believed to have made the bracelet while working as a metalworker at the Blechhammer camp. Engraved on the bracelet is his name, mother’s maiden name and identification number.

Fainer lost his mother during the Holocaust along with three siblings and more than 250 family members, the St. Louis Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum said in a news release.

When Fainer was moved to the notorious Buchenwald camp, his bracelet ended up ditched in a wooded area near the camp. It would stay there for decades until it was discovered during an archaeological excavation in the 1990s.

In 2018, the person who found the bracelet was cleaning out his office and stumbled across a photo of the bracelet. He asked the Buchenwald Memorial what happened to it, prompting memorial officials to track down Fainer’s daughter.

The email was the first she’d heard of the bracelet.

Berry, who lives in Philadelphia, traveled to Germany in October 2019 to see the bracelet for the very first time, the St. Louis Jewish Light reported. The man who discovered the bracelet also traveled to Buchenwald to meet with her.

“Being on the grounds of Buchenwald where my father was imprisoned was very emotional,” Berry said, according to the Light.

She returned home with the bracelet. On Thursday, the Kaplan Feldman Holocaust Museum announced it would become part of the museum’s permanent collection when it reopens in 2022 following an expansion.

The museum’s curator and director of education Dan Reich told the Light, “It clearly wasn’t just a piece of jewelry.”

Berry agreed.

“Here is a 14-year-old child saying, ‘This is who I am and this is what they’ve done to me.’ I mean it’s his identity in this piece of metal,” she told KSDK.

After the camps were liberated, Fainer moved to Ireland before eventually settling in St. Louis, the museum said. Fainer wouldn’t speak about his time in the camps for another 60 years until reconnecting with one of his liberators.

He began to tell his stories to visitors at the museum and detailed his experiences in his book “Silent for Sixty Years.”

“Once he started speaking, it was so healing for him,” Berry told KSDK, “to share his story and to be embraced by people.”

Reich said the museum became an important part of Fainer’s life.

“That’s why getting this artifact (was important) because we have his book, but we don’t have other things from him, so now we do,” Reich told the Post Dispatch.

Berry told the Light she knew the bracelet belonged at the museum.

“To see how he devoted himself to this community, and all the speaking that he did, how that healed him and what that did for his life — his soul is there,” Berry said.

Reich echoed her sentiment.

“If this is where part of his spirit dwells, it’s appropriate that the bracelet will now be there as well.”

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