Bono Wiener: political activist

Bono Wiener was 19 years old when war broke out. He was already politically astute, having been brought up with parents active in the Bund movement, a Jewish socialist organisation. In the ghetto he was involved in the resistance movement, and finally, when the ghetto was being liquidated, he was prescient enough to understand the importance of burying documents from the ghetto for the future. While others were thinking about their own survival, Bono had the foresight to see the value in preserving documentary evidence of the Nazi crimes.

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Bono Wiener

Work card belonging to Bono's mother, Estera Royze Wiener

Bono's father, Mosche Wiener

Bono Wiener, from Lodz, with other survivors in Mauthausen concentration camp, shortly after liberation

Bono Wiener immediately after liberation, May 1945

Symcha-Binem (Bono) Wiener was born in Lodz in 1920. His father, Mosche, ran a transportation business. His mother, Royze, was involved in the Bund’s women’s organisation. His brother, Pinchas, was a conscript of the Polish Army and spent most of the war in Russia. Bono was a member of the Bund Youth Organisation, the Socialister Kinder Yiddish Farband (SKIF) and was employed as a mechanic in a textile factory when he finished school.

In May 1940, the Wiener family moved in to the ghetto where Bono was employed in a metal factory. He joined the Bund leadership in the ghetto, a group banned by the Nazis. The organisation met in cells to avoid detection and was instrumental in improving the lives of inhabitants in the ghetto. They established a soup kitchen, organised cultural activities, and with the help of Bono, constructed a radio, which gave them access to information about both Nazi and Allied activities.¬†Bono’s father died of starvation on 16 May 1942, while his mother passed away on 30 June 1944, due to complications from kidney surgery. After his mother’s death, Bono’s Aunt Clara was chosen for deportation from the ghetto, so Bono volunteered to accompany her. The couple arrived in Auschwitz on 25 August 1944 and were immediately separated. Bono never saw his aunt again. Bono obtained a position as a toolmaker in Auschwitz and was once again involved in the underground movement.

In mid-January 1945 Bono, aged 24, was sent on a death march to Mauthausen concentration camp. Many prisoners froze to death along the way, due to the harsh Polish winter or were shot by the  German guards. Bono survived and was soon employed in a factory in Mauthausen, building planes for the German administration. The United States Army liberated the camp on 5 May 1945.

Bono did not believe it was possible to rebuild a Jewish life in Poland, and immigrated to Australia with his brother in 1950. Bono became active in the Australian Labor Party, was a secretary and president of the Bund, and was one of the Founders of the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick, where he worked as co-president. He died on 9 July 1995.