Meed, Benjamin

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MEED, BENJAMIN (1918– ), leader of Holocaust survivors in the United States. Meed was born Benjamin Miedzyrzecki in Warsaw, Poland, and at the age of 16, he joined the Jewish Labor Bund. After the creation of the Warsaw Ghetto, he obtained false papers and escaped to the Aryan side where he lived posing as a Pole. His parents survived hiding in a hut on an old cemetery. At one point Meed intended to go to the Hotel Polski for its promise of emigration but his brother pleaded with him to take his place. Meed consented and his brother was never heard from again. Around this time, he married Feyge (Vladka) Peltel (see *Meed, Vladka), also a member of the Bund and an important courier and arms purchaser for the resistance. After the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, he continued to work with the Bund helping provide hiding spaces for other Jews.

The couple immigrated to the United States in 1946, where Meed became a businessman and importer. In 1966, he helped form and became president of the Warsaw Ghetto Resistance Organization (wagro) and devoted the remaining years of his life to representing the survivors. He organized the annual Yom Hashoah ceremony in New York City, the largest such gathering in the United States, that brought American presidents and Israeli prime ministers to Temple Emmau El. When the survivors wanted to organize their first gathering in Jerusalem in 1981, Meed helped organize the *American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, which brought together nearly 5,000 survivors and their children. Meed also pioneered the Registry of Holocaust Survivors, which facilitated the reunion between survivors long thought to be lost to each other. The Registry now contains more than 100,000 entries organized by name – original and maiden as well as current – city of birth, camps of incarceration, and cities of postwar habitation.

In 1983 a gathering was held in Washington, dc, where 20,000 survivors assembled. Meed hosted President Ronald Reagan, Vice President George H.W. Bush, and the Senate and House leaders, who addressed the survivors in front of the Capitol and on the National Mall. Subsequent gatherings were in Philadelphia, New York, and Miami, and again in Washington, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the *United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Meed was instrumental in creating the Museum; first serving on the Advisory Council of the President's Commission on the Holocaust and later on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council where he chaired the Days of Remembrance Committee and the pivotal Content Committee that assured the presence and participation of Holocaust survivors, most especially after Elie Wiesel resigned as chairman in 1986. His role became more central as there was fear that without Wiesel the neshamah, the soul, of the Museum, would flounder. Under Meed's leadership, the Committee brought together scholars and survivors, communal leaders and Council members to assure the intellectual, aesthetic, historical, and spiritual content of the Permanent Exhibition.


M. Berenbaum (ed.), From Holocaust to New Life (1985); S. Bloch (ed.), From the Holocaust to Redemption (1982).

[Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.)]