When he was a teenager, Ben Lesser was in the Auschwitz concentration camp, bent over a sawhorse, counting out loud, in German, each time a Nazi officer whipped him in the legs with a hardwood switch. Blood dripping down his legs, he counted. All the way to 25.
From Auschwitz he was moved to Buchenwald, and from Buchenwald to Dachau, where he was finally liberated.
In 1947, he immigrated to the United States, got married, became a realtor and lived the American Dream in Los Angeles. He's since retired and written a book, Living a Life That Matters: From Nazi Nightmare to American Dream.
On Thursday, Lesser performed a Reddit AMA ("Ask Me Anything"), in which, along with detailing his life in the Nazi death camps, he answered Reddit user MewTwoMushu's questions: "What would you like every young person to know?" and, "What advice could you give them on how to live well?"
Here are Lesser's answers:
"I want each person to know that life is a matter of choices."
"An individual can always choose what happens to them."
"Whether it's a crisis, or a calamity, people can choose to either ruin their lives, or to learn from it, and move forward."
"It's essential to understand the consequences of personal choices."
"It's possible to let tragedy or trauma become a reason to stop living. But it's also possible to live through extreme circumstances like I did and commit to a life that has meaning. A life that matters."
"If you strive — whatever profession you're in — to be the best in that profession, and if you work for a company, try to find out how you can, or what you can do, to help this company succeed, then you will be successful."
"Don't be a clock-watcher."
"Just see what you can do to possibly improve that company, so they can make money, hire more people ... If you have this outlook, be the best in whatever you do, you have nothing to worry about in life. You will have a wonderful life. This is what I feel I succeeded in. Because I never thought about myself personally. I thought if my boss is going to be successful, I will be, automatically, awarded. That's the best advice I can give you."
Read the rest of the AMA here.