Peter Isaac Brandstein


Isaac was originally Hungarian. He was born in the Carpathian Mountains and passed away in London. During the war he was in Buchenwald together with his father, who was selected for transport to Auschwitz. Isaac risked death by stepping out of the line and asking permission to go with his father, but the camp commander pushed

him back into line. After the war he came to the UK with the ‘Hungarian Group’, arriving in Northern Ireland together with Victor Greenberg, and being lodged in a small village called Millisle, which is not far from Belfast. He stayed there for about 5 months before moving to London, where he stayed in a hostel in Golders Green. He trained as an accountant, working in the City for a time. He was a private man and was sadly never able to recover from the traumas of his war-time experiences. He lived for several years in Swiss Cottage, not venturing out, and lost contact with all but the most devoted of his old friends. He spent his final years in Nightingale Care Home. He never married and had no family of his own.

In the 1981 edition of the ’45 Journal, he wrote an extremely poignant article entitled ‘Returned From The Dead’ in which he described the painfully long depressive illness he had been enduring for several years and under the shadowof which he found it impossible to emerge.

He described it as being ‘caught up in the net between the living and the dead.’ He explained that, unlike when he was in the camps, surrounded by people suffering a similar fate, he now felt totally alone. ‘It was as if my crying was trying to make up for the tears that I should have shed in the Camps, but never did. Not even during the killing of my nearest and dearest.’

He submitted a poem entitled ‘Thirty Five Years’ for the same journal, celebrating the 35 years that had passed since Liberation. The penultimate stanza reads:

‘If the whole world’s trees were made into pens,
And the world’s rivers and seas were ink,
Not even then could we adequately describe hereunder,
The debt that we owe to those that died during the Holocaust thunder.’

Frances Kahan

Posted in Memory Quilts.