A year before his birth, his parents escaped from Nazi Germany to The Netherlands. But when World War II had broken out, the country was soon occupied too, and there remained no other route available than the one forced upon all those other Jewish families. The family was transported through camp Westerbork and to camp Bergen-Belsen. Jona survived the war, but both his parents died.
He was taken care of by a foster family. He dedicated his first book Childhood to his foster parents:
For my foster parents
who had quite a time
with me.— Amsterdam, 19 November 1977, 7 p.m.
After the war he went to school and university, specializing as a nuclear and particle physicist. Oberski is married, having three children.
In the '70s, Oberski joined a poetry workshop, after which it occurred to him to write about his own experiences of the Nazi concentration camps. In 1978, the book Kinderjaren (Childhood) was first published in The Netherlands. The book, in particular, follows the events through the eyes of a small child.
Translations of Childhood have been published in Canada, Denmark, Germany, United Kingdom, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Croatia, Norway, Poland, Spain, USA, Sweden. Childhood was filmed as "Jonah who lived in the whale", put unto DVD as "Look to the sky".
He further published two more literary works in Dutch, De ongenode gast (1995) (The Uninvited Visitor) and De eigenaar van niemandsland (1997) (The Proprietor of No Mans Land), and columns and articles for several magazines. Other published works are related to his science specialty, physics, like his: "An alpha-deuteron correlation experiment on carbon with the multidetector BOL (Ph.D. thesis) (1971)"