Birthdate: June 21, 1928
Birthplace: Hamburg, Germany
Religious Identity: Jewish
“I used to say I wasn’t a Holocaust survivor- I wasn’t in the camps, I wasn’t hidden, the only thing that happened to me is that my parents were killed when I was 11 years old in a Holocaust- related incident, and I’ve come to realize that I am a Holocaust survivor.”
Walter Boninger was born in 1928 in Hamburg, Germany. He and his parents were living in peace until the Nazis were elected to power. The family experienced Kristallnacht, and Walter’s father was detained along with 30,000 other Jewish men. After two months he returned to the family, who had attained permission to leave the country. In 1939, the family boarded the Dutch liner SS Simon Bolivar on its way to Santiago, Chile. The ship struck mines laid by the Nazis in neutral merchant channels, and both of Walters’s parents were killed, but at 11 years old he survived. He was returned on a fishing trawler to Harwich, England where he spent 10 months, living in four different places. He came to the U.S. in 1940, sponsored by a sister of his grandfather. Walter stayed with the sister of his grandfather. They asked Walter if he wanted to go to the World’s Fair or visit relatives, and against his will it was decided that they were going to visit relatives. Today he says that this was truly the best thing that could’ve happened to him. He met Herda and Julius Boninger – Julius was a cousin of Walters’s father – and Walter then moved in with them. The couple never officially adopted him but they really became his parents, and he stayed in their lives until they both passed away. He went on to earn his Bachelor of Music from UCLA, and a Master’s degree in Social Work, which was his career. He has three sons, a step son, and 6 grandchildren. Walter is very musically inclined, he loves to sing, (and says he is still a good singer), and plays the piano.
“For a good many years I was delivering vegetables from a vegetable store. They don’t have them anymore, they have supermarkets but this was a vegetable store. You got your vegetables in paper bags and I had to take them to be delivered. I kept a very detailed book, maybe it’s my Germanic roots. I kept a record of every delivery whether they gave me a tip and what their attitude was. I had that job for quite a while.”
Read his full testimony here.